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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 7th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 1 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 1

County estimates Montecito mudflows, Thomas Fire costs at more than $46 million

By SPENCER COLE

The current estimated costs associated with January's Montecito mudslides and December's Thomas Fire for Santa Barbara County is $46 million and rising, according to county staff and emergency officials.

Assistant County Executive Officer Jeff Frapwell gave the Board of Supervisors the updated figures at their last meeting on Feb. 27. He said the costs given that day did not include what other entities—federal or regional—incurred responding to the two disasters.

"This number continues to move," Frapwell said. "We will continue to work with departments that are impacted so we make sure we address cash flows and appropriation issues they may encounter this year. I think today's report is really to provide a snapshot of costs currently incurred."

Frapwell described the recovery process as a "marathon, not a sprint," and said staff would return sometime in March with a further update. "Obviously, this is a key factor in planning our recommended budget for next year as well, so we know this is not a single fiscal year [issue]."

Following Frapwell's report, the supervisors voted 4-0 (with Joan Hartmann absent) to transfer $6.25 million from the county's strategic reserve to the general fund to alleviate strain on departments involved with response and recovery.

"We just took out 20 percent of the strategic reserve and it's not over yet," Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said. "I just want folks to understand, this is a significant financial hit to the county—a lot of it can probably end up being nonreimbursable."

Lavagnino added that the county would seek to reimburse as much as possible, but that the massive allocation of reserve funding was the "new normal right now."

Supervisor Peter Adam said he "totally" supported the expenditure. "This is what the strategic reserve is for."

Chair Das Williams said county staff currently calculated a 94 percent reimbursal rate, but that "it is [the Department of] Public Works' experience that that number does not happen" at that rate typically. "I think we need to be alarmed of any large figures on this [provided] list [of incurred costs from staff]."

Williams asked Frapwell why more than half of the Sheriff's Office $6 million in costs is nonreimbursable.

"Those are related staff costs on regularly scheduled work time," Frapwell explained, adding that normal schedules for employees is not generally a reimbursable expense under California Office of Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency rules.




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