Yesterday, the good folks at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors held a preliminary public meeting on ways to spend the $149 million “windfall” from the PG & E Settlement from the 2017 fires and the 2019 Fire. Although the ECA did write a letter to Chair Gorin and the other Supes, I do not believe they received any other letters from ECA members. It’s not too late!
One of the “truths” that I have learned in my 10 plus years of being at the helm of the ECA, is that participation and working on issues with County/City staff is the way to foster relationships, and the way to have influence. So, if you want to get millions more for roads, please help yourself by writing to the Supes.
As I listened to the Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday, August 11), discuss the terrible fires and the subsequent damage done by them, I could not help but be reminded by the many heroes the ECA firms had step up to help. Many of you can recall a video that the ECA and Sound Ideas put together to honor those heroes two years ago. I have included the link here for you to watch if you choose—
So, what is next? Did we miss out on being able to influence how the $149 million is to be spent? The answer is no-not yet. There are several “buckets” that the Supes are looking at applying those funds to:
- Unmet Needs Bucket-
This is the obvious place that is the most easily understood, and easily seen need for funding. Roads, bridges, guardrails, culverts were all damaged during the firestorms, and not all of those got repaired. After the fires, damage occurred to all of those same items due to heavier than normal debris hauling loads passing from the fire zones to the recycling and landfills. And finally, after the debris was hauled off, the subsequent rebuilding of houses/businesses/utilities put an already compromised infrastructure into “crumble mode”. Part of the “Unmet Needs Bucket” is also to repair our natural resources that have been compromised-slope protection for waterways, trees, and other vegetation damaged in parks and open spaces
The amount that is estimated for this bucket’s needs is estimated to be at least $50 million.
- The County spent over $26 million on staffing and other emergency labor/material/equipment in dealing with the fires that has not been reimbursed. It seems prudent that the County would pay itself back first so their Reserves are fully funded for the next unforeseen disaster that might come along.
- The other “bucket” is far more complex than the first two. This “bucket” that is being considered and discussed includes everything from hardening infrastructure to withstand another firestorm, adding redundancy and resiliency to our ability to communicate during an earthquake/fire/flood, burying some power lines in exposed areas that we now are aware of, and helping businesses get back up on their economic feet after the damaging last three years that has hurt them so badly.
To these very worthwhile “buckets” the Supes are considering and discussing, I would add another one. We need to consider funding a “resource support” team that can be called upon to provide local labor, equipment, and materials to augment CalFire and the other first responders. We all know someone who simply went into their yards (with their owner’s permission, of course), and drove a water truck up to the fire trucks and made themselves useful hauling water to the pumper truck crews. Or they watered down areas in front of or on the sides of approaching flames. Or they provided dozers and cut in fire breaks. I think the County should fund some sort of more structured effort to have equipment and manpower ready to be assigned during the next disaster.
I am sure you all have your own thoughts about what could be useful from the lessons learned so we do not suffer so much damage to our community and businesses during the next disaster. Why not take the time to talk amongst your own firm, and put your thoughts into words and send the Supervisors a note on how you think this one-time money should be spent?
Rest assured, there are other folks doing just that right now. As I have said before, if you want to influence, you need to roll up your sleeves and do the work-and that work, right now, is to write to your Supervisor before September 6, 2020, and let them know how you want them to spend these one time funds.
That’s All Folks!