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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

Budget adjustments to help with Lilac fire response expenses


Last updated 6/1/2018 at 4:32pm

The mid-year budget adjustments approved May 8 by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors included appropriating funding for activities in response to December's Lilac fire and the 2017 rainstorms, the county's financial absorption of plan check review, building permit fee waivers to rebuild structures lost or damaged in the Lilac fire, and a larger generator at the Rainbow Heights radio facility.

The county supervisors' 5-0 vote appropriated $1,883,493 for Lilac fire response activities, $605,243 to repair the storm damage at various county parks including Live Oak Park and the Fallbrook Community Center, $436,000 to subsidize plan check reviews and building permits to replace Lilac fire casualties, and $140,000 for the Rainbow Heights radio facility replacement. The third-quarter adjustments increase 2017-18 general fund expenditures by $3,750,000 and appropriations for all other funds by $7,480,667.

The county's Land Use and Environment Group includes the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the Department of Environmental Health (DEH), the Air Pollution Control District (APCD), the Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS), and the Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures (AWM). Those departments all participated in response to the Lilac fire, and the LUEG departments anticipate 2017-18 expenditures of $3,685,039 which covers $1,549,200 for DPW, $1,119,886 by PDS, $722,998 spent by the LUEG executive office, $213,493 of DEH expenses, $48,408 spent by APCD, $19,439 for AWM, and $11,615 by DPR.

The 2017-18 budget adopted in June 2017 allowed for some of those expenses to be absorbed, but the additional appropriations will ensure that department core services are not adversely impacted by the additional costs to respond to the Lilac fire. Following the October 2003 wildfires reimbursement for county response and recovery costs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the state Office of Emergency Services, and insurance proceeds led to the establishment of the Firestorm 2003 Trust Fund and the reimbursement of costs from the October 2007 fires created the Firestorm 2007 Trust Fund.

Money from those trust funds will provide $800,000 to PDS which participated in debris removal activities, $700,000 to the LUEG executive office which was involved in debris removal and erosion control activities, $170,000 to DPW to cover erosion control assistance costs, and $213,493 to DEH for activities including shelter and business assessment, household hazardous waste removal, and recovery operations management.

A Dec. 11 special meeting of the Board of Supervisors ratified a proclamation of local emergency for the Lilac fire and also included the approval of a waiver for plan check review and building permit fees to rebuild legal structures of like size and location which had been destroyed or damaged in the fire. PDS estimates the cost of those fees to be $436,000. A prior-year balance in the county's general fund was used for that appropriation revenue.

In May 2017 the county supervisors authorized a construction contract and appropriated $325,000 to replace the radio tower, equipment shelter, and generator at the Rainbow Heights radio facility operated by the Sheriff's Department. The additional appropriations consist of $100,000 to upgrade the 25-kilowatt generator to a new 35-kilowatt generator and to purchase an automatic transfer switch and $40,000 to pay for a consultant and for the planning, design, and coordination services. The appropriations changes also add the $140,000 for the project based on previously-unbudgeted radio site lease revenue for rental space at county-owned wireless radio facilities.

The January 2017 storms caused damage at 39 county parks due to heavy flooding, strong winds, and mudslides. DPR staff addressed immediate safety hazards and re-established access to trail systems. Lexington Insurance/American International Group, Inc., paid the county $1,055,700 for property damages from the storms, and DPR staff has identified additional repair work needed at eight county parks, including Live Oak Park and the Fallbrook Community Center. DPR expects that repairs costing $605,243 can be completed by the end of Fiscal Year 2017-18, and the other $450,457 from the insurance settlement will be included in the budget for 2018-19 when that work is expected to be performed.

The mid-year budget adjustments also modified the Fiscal Year 2017-18 Airport Enterprise Fund Spending Plan by transferring $1,439,595 in remaining appropriations from fixed assets to services and supplies. That amount covered $913,020 for the Fallbrook Community Airpark runway safety project along with $526,575 for an underground detention basin at Gillespie Field in El Cajon. The lack of Federal Aviation Administration financial support will preclude the Fallbrook airport runway project from being completed, and the prior-year capital expenses for project design and environmental studies will be recorded as a major maintenance expense rather than as a capital expenditure.


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