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Supervisors budget $100,000 for Community Center park turf

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved the county’s second-quarter budget adjustments February 24, including $100,000 for synthetic turf at the park outside the Fallbrook Community Center.

Other mid-year budget adjustments approved by the supervisors’ 5-0 vote included appropriating $98,000 of San Diego County Street Lighting District funds to replace stolen copper wires and to install anti-theft devices on county-maintained street lights. The supervisors also cancelled $90,000 of appropriations once intended for the purchase of the Fallbrook Burnsite 1B property.

Although the county’s revenues have decreased, mid-year budget adjustments allow not only for the elimination of expenditures but also for the appropriation of one-time revenues such as grants, user fees, and insurance or legal settlements. Fund balances from previous years may also be appropriated during mid-year adjustments. While the February 24 adjustments decreased appropriations in the general fund by $334,337, appropriations to other funds increased by $6,047,540. More than $3.4 million of the appropriations increase to other funds covered Palomar Airport projects and was derived from a County Airports fund balance. The adjustments also cancelled $343,744 of Health and Human Services Agency appropriations and $284,361 of Department of Planning and Land Use allocations due to insufficient program revenues to support planned service levels.

The $100,000 for the Fallbrook Community Center turf was part of an insurance settlement from the October 2007 Rice Fire. Although the community center itself was not damaged by the fire, it was used as a Local Assistance Center for fire victims. Numerous recipients of assistance took their toll on the grass, and the county would have had to re-seed the grass had the synthetic turf not been installed.

The county’s Department of Parks and Recreation received an insurance settlement of $347,993 to cover damages from the October 2007 wildfires. The department opted to utilize the Fallbrook damage claim to install synthetic turf. “That way it will have a longer useful life, and we’ll reduce maintenance costs including water costs,” said Department of Parks and Recreation director Renee Bahl.

The San Diego County Street Lighting District operates approximately 10,000 lights, some of which are owned by the county and some of which are owned by San Diego Gas & Electric but for which the San Diego County Street Lighting District pays the electricity costs. The district itself includes the entirety of unincorporated San Diego County; Zone A covers parcels which benefit from street lights in the district while Zone B consists of the remainder of the district. An assessment is levied on properties in Zone A to fund the labor, material, and electricity to maintain the lights.

The increase in material costs in 2007 and early 2008 not only led to increased cost of purchasing specific quantities of material needed for a street light but had also led to metal theft, especially of copper, from county lights. Most of the thefts occurred in East County and South County, although metal thieves also utilized copper from Dulin Road street lights.

The county’s Department of Public Works, which operates the San Diego County Street Lighting District, has adopted a policy of slight annual increases to keep pace with energy costs rather than a large increase as was the case in 2004. The district had a sufficient fund balance to purchase replacement copper wire in bulk. “We’ve installed a lot of them, but now we have an inventory,” said Michele Stress, the Department of Public Works program coordinator for special districts. “We can put them in right away.”

The reserves also allowed for the purchase of numerous anti-theft devices. “We bought a supply of anti-theft devices so we’ll have them on hand,” Stress said.

The Department of Public Works has already installed anti-theft devices in some areas. “They’re relatively new devices, but so far they’ve worked very well,” Stress said. “We’ve been very happy with them.”

Security issues prevent more detailed information about the anti-theft devices and their locations from being revealed to the public.

Three separate parcels on Stone Post Way by Santa Margarita Road constitute the Fallbrook Burnsite, where garbage was once incinerated. When garbage was being burned in Fallbrook, the County of San Diego was responsible for waste disposal but did not own all of the landfills and burnsites. “In some cases the county had contracts with private property owners who would operate the site,” said Vicky Gallagher, the program manager for the county’s inactive landfills. “Some of those were leases.”

The Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining the county’s inactive landfills and burnsites. That responsibility includes, but is not limited to, completion of studies to determine whether the presence of lead and other metals or chemical compounds pose a risk to public health and safety or to the environment. The county is also responsible for the development and implementation of remediation actions which may include improvements to existing landfill gas and groundwater systems, import and placement of additional cover material, securing sites with fencing, and removal or consolidation of the wastes.

The Fallbrook Burnsite includes approximately 8,000 cubic yards of burn ash which contains heavy metals, including lead. In April 2007 the Board of Supervisors authorized the Department of Public Works to apply for a California Integrated Waste Management Board matching grant to clean up the Fallbrook 1C, Alpine, Jacumba I, and Jacumba II burn sites.

Fallbrook Burnsite 1C is owned by the county. The mitigation project for the Fallbrook Burnsite would consolidate the burn ash material and construct an engineered cap over the waste. The total cost is estimated at $3 million while the CIWMB matching grant would provide $750,000. Although the CIWMB has awarded grants for the other three burnsites, the Regional Water Quality Control Board has indicated concerns about the Fallbrook 1C cleanup process and the grant application will not be submitted until the RWQCB issues are resolved. If the CIWMB approves the grant application for the Fallbrook Burnsite, county staff will prepare specific remediation plans for the site and will complete the appropriate environmental review before returning to the Board of Supervisors with a request to authorize a contract for the cleanup work.

The county does not own the Fallbrook Burnsite 1A parcel. While the county never budgeted any funding to purchase the Fallbrook 1A property, the $90,000 had been budgeted for the purchase of the Fallbrook 1B parcel. “At one point the county was considering buying the property,” Gallagher said.

“At this point we’re not planning to do that because of budgetary issues,” Gallagher said. “Since we’re not going to be moving forward with the project, it’s been removed from the budget.”

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