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U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson announced the launch of the second annual Congressional App Challenge for the 5th Congressional District. The nationwide competition invites high school students from all participating congressional districts to compete by creating and exhibiting their software “app,” for mobile, tablet, or computer devices. It is designed to promote innovation and engagement in the STEM education fields. In order to participate in the competition, students must submit their app’s source code online by midnight on January 15, 2016 EST, as well as provide a video demo explaining their app and what they learned through this competition process. More details on submitting a contest entry, the rules of the competition, can be found at http://www.congressionalappchallenge.us.

What do you do with all that wrapping paper and packaging once the gifts have been opened? Mike Sweeney of Mendocino Solid Waste Management is getting the word out that there are local options for recycling and composting holiday debris. Christmas trees can be cut up and put in green yard waste bins, wrapping paper can be recycled, though leave the ribbons and bows out of it. If you’re tossing out old electronics in favor of newer gadgets you can dispose of older items at the transfer station on plant road. Finally after the Christmas feast is done, you can compost your food waste in free compasting containers available by calling Waste management. Sweeny says he love the holidays but doing away with the trash it creates is hard from a solid waste perspective.

The city of Ukiah will again collect bids for two new wells it hopes to build. the Ukiah City Council approved rejecting both bids it received this month. Public Works Director Tim Eriksen told the Ukiah Daily Journal that there were irregularities with both of those bids that made them uncomfortable moving forward. He says they also need to tweak specification for both projects. They’re planning to install a replacement for Well No. 4, the city’s oldest on Lorraine Street, and putting in a new well on Brush Street that will be Well No. 9. Eriksen said staff will likely have new bids to bring forward in February.

The American Red Cross recently announced that it will allocate more than $500,000 to help support Valley Fire recovery efforts. At leas 75 percent of that money will go those that need the most assistance. The rest will pay the salary and operating expenses of a new recovery manager that has yet to be hired. Senior Disaster Program Manager Mike Conroy says they’re looking for community members who have unmet needs like those who lost their house and didn’t have insurance. In addition to financial assistance they’ll also be providing help with building permits and other needs.

Computers and cash were stolen from two homes in Ukiah last week. According to the Ukiah Police Department, a woman in the 100 block of Marlene Street reported that when she left her home, she had $260 on her kitchen counter. When she came home, however, she said the cash was missing, as well as a laptop and an iPad. An officer found that one of her doors appeared to have been pried open. The same day another caller said she returned hope to find her laptop and several other items missing.

A proposed Mendocino County ballot measure aimed at beefing up funding for struggling rural fire districts has yet to be officially named or circulated for signatures but it’s already in a legal battle. The proposal, by officials representing four rural fire districts, would require that county supervisors consider giving the county’s nearly two dozen fire districts a 30 percent share of a half-cent public safety tax approved in 1993. If passed, the measure would reverse a long-standing arrangement in Mendocino County, where supervisors, decided to exclude fire districts from the funding source, which last year generated more than $7 million. The funding currently is divided among the Sheriff Office, District Attorney’s Office, jail and probation department. Acting Mendocino County Counsel Katharine Elliott sued the proponents last week to halt the measure, contending it unlawfully infringes on elected officials’ decision-making authority. The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors did not take part in the decision to sue over the proposed ballot measure, according to Supervisor John McCowen.

Santa Rosa has launched a new program that buys one-way bus and plane tickets for homeless people who want to get back home. Jennielynn Holmes, director of housing and shelter for Catholic Charities, says sometimes getting people home to a more supportive environment is all they need to get off the street. Since the pilot program began in August, Catholic Charities has spent $1,630 to send six people away from Sonoma County, one by airplane and the rest by Greyhound bus. Supporters of the program say it is more cost-effective and humane to help homeless people return home instead of paying to provide them with local housing, health care and myriad other public services.

The Mendocino County Executive Office said Wednesday the county plans to solicit requests for proposals for dispatch services in 2016, but the current contract in place with Cal Fire will continue. Cal Fire’s Emergency Communications Command Center at Howard Forest in Willits is currently contracted by the county to provide fire and EMS dispatch services, a contract that was entered into in 2007 and was extended for three years by the Board of Supervisors in July of this year. The county said per its contract with Cal Fire for dispatch services, it is required to notify the state fire agency one year in advance of a contract termination. With the exception of the cities of Ukiah and Willits, dispatch services are provided countywide and funded by the county’s general fund.

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