San Andreas, CA — A long-anticipated study session on emergency management and talk about how to use over $20.2 million in wildfire settlement monies from PG&E looms large on the next Calaveras supes agenda.
Plans are for the board and county staff to spend significant time exchanging information and education regarding the county’s emergency management structure and activities; also related projects focused on multi-agency coordination and fire preparedness efforts. Among the areas the session will pore over in detail is the current structure and function of county emergency management; how agencies coordinate to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters; also the funding and responsibilities of the Calaveras County Office of Emergency Services (OES). Collaborating agencies will also present on countywide fire preparedness efforts.
Another somewhat related focus for next Tuesday’s meeting is a Butte Fire settlement funds discussion, during which the board will provide staff direction regarding appropriations of those funds for specific purposes. The deadly wildfire disaster that ignited Sept. 9, 2015 and claimed two lives, destroyed 548 residential structures, 368 non-residential structures, four commercial structures, and damaged an additional 22 structures in Calaveras County. A total of 70,868 acres were burned, much of it private property. The determined ignition point was a falling tree making contact with a PG&E power line.
On July 20, 2018, Calaveras County filed a complaint against PG&E in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento and entered into a settlement agreement and general release on Nov. 18. In it, PG&E agreed it would make a one-time payment to the county of $25.4 million. On Dec. 14, after the payment of certain fees and expenses it incurred in connection with the settlement, the county received $20,252,034.98.
Butte Fire Settlement Spending Possibilities
While the board has total discretion and can appropriate the funds as it chooses, staff recommendations specifically include not using them for activities that could incur ongoing costs for which funding sources are yet unidentified; new permanent staff positions; or programs that are primarily funded by state or federal sources.
Among a list of possible uses for the monies are to increase the General Fund Reserve; construction, renovation, and/or major improvements of county-owned facilities; acquire major capital assets to facilitate activities that are hampered because appropriate equipment is either unavailable or beyond its useful life.
The list also suggests emergency and fire preparedness related uses, such as: communications infrastructure that increases rapid response ability; training to improve future disaster response; improvements for temporary evacuation areas or facilities; improvements to roads damaged by the Butte Fire and/or potential primary evacuation routes; contributions to emergency partners that would improve their future emergency response.
The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the supervisor’s chambers at the county government center (891 Mountain Ranch Rd.).