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Local
Recovery
In wake of October fires, Napa is now offering free mental health services

You didn’t have to lose a home to be personally affected by Napa’s October wildfires. Even just living in a community that’s been hit by such a disaster is enough to cause stress and anxiety, report mental health experts.

“You don’t get over (a disaster) when the flood waters go away or you can’t see the burn” marks anymore, said Jim Featherstone, a consulting local mental health manager.

Because the county has seen a number of disasters and tragedies in recent months and years, “Mental health is really important right now,” said Jessica Quiñones, a mental health therapist.

Since so many Napans were touched by the fires and their aftermath, mental health advocates recently launched a new program in Napa County called California HOPE.

California HOPE provides free crisis counseling, resource navigation and disaster recovery education services. It’s for people, families and groups most affected by the recent Napa and Sonoma County fires.

California HOPE was originally created after the 2015 Butte Fire, one of the most destructive wildfires in state history. The program launched in Napa County in January.

Eight crisis counselors are part of the California HOPE program in Napa County. Services are bilingual and confidential. No identification is required.

So far, more than 860 people have received help from the program, said Quiñones, the program manager. Most of those are adults, but about 200 children have also been assisted.

To reach residents, the counselors literally knock on doors or call people who have visited resources centers in the past.

“It’s a more casual, direct neighbor-to-neighbor approach,” said Featherstone. And it applies to everyone affected, from minimum wage earners to the residents of Silverado Resort.

“We want to make sure even our children know we are here for them,” said Quiñones. They are in a place that has a community that supports them,” she said.

Quiñones said the workers use an example of a phoenix when talking with children.

Like a phoenix, “Sometimes we go through difficult times, but after going through it we come out stronger and better and more beautiful.” A temporary tattoo of a phoenix helps drive home that metaphor.

In addition to anxiety from the October fires, Quiñones said locals may be feeling anxiety or stress from a number of things, including the 2014 Napa earthquake, the 2015 Lake County fires, the January shooting at Starbucks on Lincoln Avenue, the March 9 murders in Yountville and even recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.

The after-effects of such trauma “hangs around,” Featherstone said.

Quiñones is a mental health therapist and crisis counselor at Mentis, a provider of mental health services in Napa County.

She’s also the team leader of California HOPE in Napa County. Featherstone is a consultant.

The goal of California HOPE is to educate people about common symptoms of post-disaster stress such as anxiety, insomnia, irritability, isolation, panic attacks or fears.

The program wants to promote “resilience, empowerment and recovery,” said Quiñones. Indeed, the words “helping, outreach, possibilities and empowerment” make up the HOPE acronym.

“If you can provide counseling then you have a stronger community,” said Featherstone.

“We just want them to review their recovery options and point them to the right resources,” said Quiñones.

That includes mental health services but also housing, education, health care and other resources.

In addition, Quiñones said, “We want people to understand they still have resources inside of them. Yes, times are tough, but they are tough as well. Some have forgotten that and we are here to remind them of it.”

California HOPE is networked with three local resources centers: Puertas Abiertas and Mentis in Napa and the UpValley Family Centers in St. Helena and Calistoga.

The program is funded by the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Mental Health Services.

California HOPE is administered by the California State Mental Health Authority in conjunction with the County of Napa and Mentis, Puertas Abiertas and the UpValley Family Centers.

Napa’s share of its first California Hope grant is $127,642, said Featherstone. A second grant for another nine months of care has been proposed. The budget for that second grant is $465,255.

“The program is going pretty well,” said Featherstone. Representatives from FEMA has reviewed their progress and “they have been very pleased with our outreach, especially to our Spanish-speaking population,” he said.

While the goal is to contact and provide assistance to an estimated 2,000 people, it’s hard to say exactly how many more locals California HOPE might be able to help in Napa County, said Quiñones.

“We’re just going to go and go and go until we need to stop.”


Local
Safeway Open
Safeway Open can keep Silverado Resort's VIP suites year-round in Napa

Using a crane to assemble and disassemble a modular VIP suite on the 18th hole for the Safeway Open costs tens of thousands of dollars annually, an expense that organizers of the charity event will avoid through 2020.

The Napa County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to allow the hospitality suite for up to 96 people to remain year-round at Silverado Resort and Spa for the next three years. A condition is that the suite can be used only during the seven days of the October golf tournament.

The modular suite has been in place year-round for two years without commission approval, but legally. County staff issued a temporary permit to buy time for tournament organizers to apply for and obtain a county use permit.

Why did it take so long for such an apparently simple matter to reach the Planning Commission so commissioners could approve a 1,600-square-foot structure already in place?

County Supervising Planner Charlene Gallina said various issues arose such as having to do a flood action plan because the modular suite is within the 100-year flood plain. If a flood is predicted within 10 days, the suite will be removed on an emergency basis within 48 hours.

But, with the exception of such an emergency, the suite made up of four mobile trailers will stay.

Assistant Tournament Director Matt McEvoy said keeping the modular unit on site, as opposed to removing it each year, will save $500,000 from 2016-2020. Since the tournament is run for charity, those are charity dollars, he said.

“We’ve done $6 million for charity over the last four years and (will do) much more through the next three, much of which stays here in Napa County,” McEvoy told commissioners.

Commissioners quickly rendered their verdict.

“Seldom are we confronted, if you will, with what I would describe as no-brainer,” Commissioner Terry Scott said.

After 2020, applicants Lagardere Sports/Safeway Open must remove the modular suite and restore the area to its original condition of manicured grass, a county report said.

That 2020 date also marks the expiration of the five-year agreement for the Safeway Open to be at Silverado. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Safeway Open event there. McEvoy said that Safeway officials internally call the event “the Super Bowl of Safeway.”

“The tournament may be here for a long time,” he said after the meeting.

Safeway leases the modular suite from Fry’s Electronics, which sponsored the PGA tournament event at Silverado in 2014 and 2015. After 2020, Safeway could replace the suite with an upgraded structure that would be removed each year, McEvoy said.

A planning matter such as the modular suite in some cases could be handled by staff. It came to the Planning Commission because the suite is located within the 55-foot setback for the west fork of Milliken Creek and required an exception to county conservation regulations.


Local
Housing
Neighborhood complaints prompt reduced American Canyon housing project

AMERICAN CANYON — The Planning Commission has approved the development of four new homes in one of American Canyon’s oldest neighborhoods, but not before complaints from local residents forced the developer to scale back the project.

The four, single-family houses would be built just off West Carolyn Drive, near the intersection with Rio Del Mar, in the Rancho Del Mar subdivision, which was first developed in the 1950s.

Initially, the developer, Resham Singh, proposed building five homes on the empty, 2.15-acre site.

But objections from local homeowners to the location of the fifth house prompted Singh to go with constructing only four dwellings.

The site consists of two adjoining parcels, one of which is long and narrow, forming a panhandle shape. Singh wanted to build the fifth home in the panhandle.

But a handful of residents living on West Carolyn Drive and nearby Jana Way appeared before the Planning Commission’s meeting on Feb. 22 to raise concerns about building a home in that location, situated on a slope.

“We’re having enough problems already with neighborhoods and traffic,” said resident Karen Smith, “and here we’re adding more houses. It’s just ridiculous to me.”

Susanna Harris said “mudslides could happen” if construction was allowed to take place in the area.

Other residents said the proposed house might interfere with the views of existing homes, and be difficult to access in the event of a fire or an emergency.

Planning commissioners decided to postpone the matter until their meeting on March 22.

In the meantime, Singh and city staff arranged a town hall meeting at the nearby Harvest Free World Baptist Church on March 15.

After discussing the topic with neighbors, Singh revised his development proposal with the city, eliminating plans for the fifth home.

No residents appeared before the Planning Commission’s March 22 meeting to object to the amended project.

“I don’t see many of them here tonight,” said Jeremy Sill, a civil engineer working for Singh, on March 22. ”I’ll take that as a good thing.”

Singh told the commission that he offered to sell the lot to local residents who expressed interest in collectively purchasing the land to ensure no one else comes along and tries to build a home there.

“We proposed a sale to the neighbors,” said Singh. But he had not received any offers as of March 22. “It is hard to say what the possibility of that” sale is.

The uncertainty of what might happen with the lot worried Commissioner Bernie Zipay.

“If my house were over there,” said Zipay, “it would be my concern as well.”

“I would recommend we stop any future design for Lot 5,” he added, “as opposed to waiting for it to happen” again.

Community Development Director Brent Cooper told the commission that he came away from the town hall meeting with the sense that the land should remain open space “or a neighborhood amenity.”

The Planning Commission approved Singh’s revised proposal for four homes.


Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle 

A developer is planning to build four new homes on this vacant lot in the Rancho Del Mar subdivision. 


Local
Personnel
Napa boosts pay for police chief, captains

Raises for the head of Napa Police and the agency’s captains have passed muster with the City Council, which on Tuesday approved hikes for the top levels of local law enforcement.

The change lifts the minimum salary for Police Chief Steve Potter by 3 percent to $185,454, with a new maximum of $224,066, in addition to health, pension and other benefits, according to city documents.

A police captain’s base pay would rise 2 percent to $155,073 with a maximum of $187,337.

Managers in the police department are working under a three-year contract that runs through Dec. 31, and the pact allows management and the city to reopen its terms and reset salaries according to market conditions or the nearness of captains’ pay to those of lower ranks, according to Deputy City Manager Desiree Brun.

Both raises originally were scheduled to take effect Dec. 30, but disruptions caused by the October wildfires in the Napa Valley delayed contract negotiations and paperwork by several months, Finance Director Brian Cochran said Wednesday.

The raises are expected to cost Napa more than $15,600 from the general fund, Brun wrote in a memorandum to the council.

Raises for other Napa department directors took effect Jan. 1, increasing pay by 3.5 percent this year and 3 percent in 2019 for the police and fire chiefs as well as the city manager, public works director and others. Salaries also will go up by 5 percent for the mayor and council seats, all part-time positions, after the November elections.

Rank-and-file city workers across law enforcement, fire protection and civilian services are covered by separate contracts, negotiated by their bargaining groups to last through 2018 or 2019.


msestito / Maria Sestito, Register file photo  

Potter