Incompetent County Could Lose $48 Million in Storm Relief Funding

Santa Cruz County, a county that Sanders and Warren would call conservative, has rules, mandates, hearings, studies and regulations, along with the State of California for repair work on infrastructure.  The Federal government also has rules—you have two years to fully apply for funding by giving us your plans.  Now the crybabies of Santa Cruz are begging for an extension because they can not get their act together and the laws prevent them from finalizing plans in a two year period.  In the meantime the people of the county put up with mismanaged and incompetent government—continue to vote for those that make it worse.

“The winter’s storms were declared federal disasters, freeing up more than $116 million in federal relief funds from FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration.

But a two-year deadline to authorize repair projects is now putting up to $48 million in funding from the Federal Highway Administration in jeopardy.

Local public works officials say that the project authorizations often take more than two years to complete, even under ideal circumstances. Under prior administrations securing extensions for the funds was said to be routine.”

The county needs to look in the mirror—they set the rules that created the roadblock to Federal assistance—stop blaming Washington—you are the enemy of the people.

$48 million in federal storm-relief funding at risk for Santa Cruz County

Years after most destructive storms in history, dozens of repairs needed

By Nicholas Ibarra, Santa Cruz Sentinel 10/5/19

SANTA CRUZ — Almost three years after the most destructive winter storms in Santa Cruz County history, dozens of road repairs remain unfinished — and $48 million in federal relief funding is now at risk.

In the winter of 2016-17, storms tore through Santa Cruz County’s rural roads. Sinkholes, collapsed culverts and fallen trees contributed to a record $140 million in damage.

At just 445 square miles, the coastal county is the second smallest in California. That winter, it sustained the most damage of any county in the state.

The winter’s storms were declared federal disasters, freeing up more than $116 million in federal relief funds from FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration.

But a two-year deadline to authorize repair projects is now putting up to $48 million in funding from the Federal Highway Administration in jeopardy.

Local public works officials say that the project authorizations often take more than two years to complete, even under ideal circumstances. Under prior administrations securing extensions for the funds was said to be routine.

Not so any longer, according to local officials.

“Federal Highways has made the decision to be very cautious about granting extensions, and they’re now picking agencies apart,” said Matt Machado, the county director of Public Works.

Ryan Coonerty, chair of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, said that the issue is underscored by the Trump administration’s lack of goodwill toward California.

“In the past, you could go have conversations with the administration, especially after storms,” Coonerty said. “And there was a bipartisan sense of, ‘What can we do to help your community recover?’ … That is obviously not the case with this administration.”

“We are in an extraordinary situation where the federal government is not helping local communities recover from natural disasters,” he added.

Public works officials now expect to see extensions for at least $18 million in relief funding denied — the equivalent of more than 5 years of the county’s road resurfacing budget. And in the worst case scenario, the county could end up on the hook for $48 million in repairs for which extensions are needed.

According to Coonerty, the question surrounding the repair funding is an immediate concern for rural residents whose roads bore the brunt of the storm damage. If the federal funds aren’t secured, he said the county could end up being forced to funnel much of its transportation budget toward the repairs for years to come.

“This quickly becomes everybody’s problem in the county,” Coonerty said. “We just don’t have the money.”

Extension requests for 85 repair projects are pending approval with the Federal Highway Administration, and Coonerty and other officials have met with the Federal Highways Administration to plead their case.

Democratic Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jimmy Panetta are also involved. Both are sponsors on a bill that would extend the two-year deadline for emergency repair authorization to six years.

In letters to the Federal Highway Administration in May and September, the two representatives urged the agency to approve the county’s extension requests, writing that the authorization delays are “largely out of the county’s control.”

“Federal funding is absolutely critical to repairing the roads damaged in the 2017 storms,” Eshoo and Panetta wrote in a Sept. 19 letter. “… We cannot lose this opportunity to move forward.”

The Federal Highway Administration is expected to make a determination on the extension requests in coming months.

“It’s not as though they don’t have the power,” Coonerty said. “They could (approve the extensions). We just need either they or Congress to help communities that have been impacted by natural disasters.”

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.