Situated in the heart of Sonoma County, the city of Healdsburg is a quintessential wine country town, complete with picturesque vineyards, idyllic wineries and a quaint downtown plaza with an old-world feel. Consistently rated as one of the country’s top ten small towns, as well as one of the best places to live in America, Healdsburg also boasts three of the country’s greatest wineries, which draw thousands of oenophile tourists to the area each year.
Healdsburg is not a big metropolis, but its population and tourism industry are growing, and thanks to a small but hard-working team of IBEW 1245 members, Healdsburg’s basic utilities and public services operate safely and efficiently for residents and visitors alike.
Ready to Drink
While Healdsburg is known for its wine, the city would be nothing without a reliable source of palatable water. The vast majority of the city’s drinking water comes from its state-of-the-art 2.9 million gallon micro-filtration plant, which was constructed in 2005.
According to Water Utility Foreman Allen Roseberry, the water is pumped from the aquifer under the Russian River to a reservoir near the plant. From there, Roseberry and his team add chlorine, fluoride and a corrosion inhibitor prior to treatment. When the water leaves the plant, it’s ready to drink.
Nearly all the water for the City of Healdsburg is treated at the plant, although there are two additional plants that help meet the increased demand during the hot summer months.
Roseberry started his career with the city as a temp 21 years ago, and is proud to be a Local 1245 member for 19 years — and counting.
“The union has helped us with our wages quite a bit, and has helped with a lot of the benefits we get here at City of Healdsburg,” he noted. “My wage has gone up considerably over the years … [and I value] the job security also.”
Anyone who has driven through Healdsburg undoubtedly noticed its impeccable parks and lush landscape – and that landscape stays lush because of the Local 1245 members who work to maintain it.
A lifelong resident of the area, Park Caretaker Art Cruz is proud of the City of Healdsburg and has always felt at home here. He’s worked for Healdsburg’s Parks and Rec department for over 29 years, and his decades of experience have given him unique and comprehensive knowledge of the trees, grass, irrigation, facilities and maintenance needs that residents and visitors depend on to enjoy their beautiful parks and community recreation areas.
As a longtime Local 1245 member, Cruz appreciates the role that the union plays in fostering a positive and collaborative relationship between the workers and the City, especially when it comes to improving safety for the workers.
“We’re always working in poison oak and who knows what else. Back when we didn’t have uniforms, I would actually take it home, and then someone else would get poison oak,” said Cruz. “But we’ve got uniforms now, and that’s because of [the union].”
Full Service City
As a full-service city, Healdsburg has its own team of linemen and electrical workers who keep the power running to its public and private establishments and residences.
Lineman Jason Hegeman is part of this highly skilled and trained work group, performing repairs and preventative maintenance on both overhead and underground power lines that keep the lights on and appliances running all across town.
In residential neighborhoods, the work can sometimes require digging up landscaping and front yards to access underground lines. Some residents may not be too keen on that, so the crews always take the time to talk to those who will experience outages and whose property is affected.
“We’ve taken a really good approach about it and people have had a really good reaction to it,” Hegeman explained. “We discuss everything with the homeowner so they know exactly what we’re doing.”
“People will stand up for your rights”
Most Healdsburg residents and tourists take their sewer systems for granted, but without the workers, those systems could cease to operate – and that’s something that no one wants to experience.
Utility Maintenance Foreman Stephen Nelson is one of the Local 1245 members who work behind the scenes ensuring sewer lines operate properly and can accommodate new development. Nelson and his team use sophisticated CCTV equipment to locate sewer mains to plan for necessary equipment repairs. The camera enables them to map neighborhoods and rate the overall condition of the pipes.
Once they’ve been able to assess the situation, they can more efficiently order parts and plan for an underground job, rather than starting a project and discovering surprises along the way. They can dig more safely and with more accuracy.
On why he’s been a Local 1245 member for 10 years, Nelson replied: “ When you’re involved and part of a union … you can’t just be overpowered or bullied by somebody that says ‘do this job.’ It’s nice to know that people will stand up for your rights. And there’s strength in numbers.”
Photos by John Storey