Members and leaders of the city and county forged a plan to create a stronger community during the Resilience-Weed Visioning meeting held last Wednesday at Sons of Italy Hall.
Since the Boles Fire of 2014 the community has been given the opportunity to make new strides in rebuilding and fortifying the area. During the meeting the results of an online community survey were reviewed.
Using that data, attendees focused in on what they feel are the top six priorities for the community.
The top-voted area of focus is a thriving, people filled, downtown Weed with successful businesses. This is closely followed by the need for affordable housing and a livable income for community members.
The next top priority is a visible and mutually supportive relationship between the City of Weed and College of the Siskiyous, followed by the need for first-rate educational opportunities for all.
The fifth priority is a reliable emergency information network for citizens even when the basic infrastructure breaks down (such as power and internet).
The final priority is appropriate fire and forest fuel modifications, executed and reflected in city and county codes, and with consideration for environmental impacts.
The priorities will be finalized by a committee and then sent on to the consulting firm Forsgren Associates, which will incorporate them into a formal Disaster Resilience Plan for use by the organizations involved.
Close to 30 people attended last week’s meeting, most of them from the organizations involved in the process.
Resilience-Weed formed to utilize a $100,000 planning grant from the State of California's Community Development Block Grant and is steered by Great Northern Services Director Bonnie Kubowitz. Her team includes officials from the City of Weed and Siskiyou County, and CDBG Section Chief Thomas Brandenberry.
Meeting participants represented businesses and organizations of the area including the Weed Chamber of Commerce, College of the Siskiyous, Weed Long Term Recovery Group, Weed Pride, Mt. Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Roseburg Forest Products, The Ford Foundation, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors and local fire councils.
Kubowitz said the grant is an opportunity for these organizations to utilize a focused, professional plan based on the needs of the area within an accepted model.
The plan, she said, could then be used by The City of Weed as a basis for their General Plan, which has not been updated since 1982.
In answer to a question after the meeting, Kubowitz said funds from the grant not only pay for the fees associated with the creation of the plan but also the time of local officials spent in attendance at meetings and working on aspects of creating a usable plan. Thus some of the financial burden of the city and county is relieved by the State of California's grant.
The 172 community members and 40 leaders who participated in the online community survey in the fall of 2015 provided a good sample size with a small margin of error, according to Kubowitz.
The survey contains information on the current conditions of people living in the Weed area.
Survey results are online at: www.resilience-weed.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/R-W-Long-Survey-Report.mp4.
The survey is divided into Leaders and Community Members and shows a discrepancy between what leaders believe and what is experienced by the members of the community.
The survey found that while members of the community appreciate the clean water and feel a sense of pride in where they live, they feel they lack many basics that contribute to a good quality of life. “Risk areas” were seen in a lack of: employment, affordable housing, quality healthcare, educational opportunities, and child care, amongst others.
The survey also showed that members of the community do not feel protected by their police force and do not feel that local leaders are hearing and responding to their concerns about the quality of life in Siskiyou County.
During what one local business owner called a “well-run meeting” by facilitator Diane Strachan, community members expressed their gratitude for not only the exemplary response of local fire and emergency personnel but also for the empathy and support of people far and wide which brought international attention to the area and gave people “a higher level of pride in their community,” said one community member.
Attendees expressed their agreement with Margaret Dean of the Hi-Lo and Weed Pride when she remarked that “all walks of life came together to fill a need.”
Attendees also noted the resiliency of the people who lived through the disaster, many losing their homes, all their possessions, and many beloved pets.
Members of the community remarked that living in the State of California was a benefit during and in the aftermath of the Boles Fire due to the attention and resources that were available quickly. There were many lessons learned about what went right during the Boles Fire and what went wrong.
Kubowitz said, “We are wiser, Weed is wiser.”
These recommendations will now be reviewed by the Weed Resiliency Committee Jan. 29 in a closed meeting and then sent on to the consulting firm Forsgren Associates whose Disaster Resiliency Plan will be presented April 27 during a public meeting, followed by ten days of public comments, according to Kubowitz.
Incorporating any changes, the official draft version of the plan is expected to be presented to the Weed City Council on Thursday, June 9.
To learn more, visit the website, www.resilience-weed.org.