Santa Rosa prioritizes PG&E benchmark funds
Santa Rosa City Council forged a consensus on Friday on how to spend the bulk of the $ 95 million PG&E agreement allocated to the city last summer, with the city’s budget, housing construction, the Forest fire prevention and a new library for Roseland are a priority.
After hours of virtual meetings on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, council members expressed their unanimous preference to hide $ 40 million of the settlement on the city’s reservations, dangerously low by emergency spending on countless disasters, most recently including responding to COVID -19 pandemic and the glass fire. City budget officials had estimated the reserves would be $ 5 million without financial intervention.
The city received its $ 95 million stake in the settlement in July as part of a larger $ 1 billion agreement that PG&E made with local governments for forest fires in 2017 and 2018, with settlement proceeds that are roughly half the annual general fund spending of the city and about a quarter of the city’s total annual budget.
Council members agreed, without protest, that an additional US $ 10 million from the settlement could be used to build new homes. That city money will equal $ 10 million towards Sonoma County housing development in October, and the combined amount will be invested in a city and county initiative known as the Renewal Enterprise District.
Councilors also agreed to give the Santa Rosa Fire Department $ 8 million for two forest fire-related safety programs: about $ 5 million to fund a five-year vegetation management program and about $ 3 million to implement the Strategic Plan for the resilience and response to wildlands. also a five-year effort that could result in new local forest fire rules, additional fire trucks and revisions to the department’s staffing plans.
“We’re doing our community a disservice by not approving this today – although it sounds like it,” said Mayor Chris Rogers, “because they have to do this job without waiting another year.”
These preferences were easy for the council as they helped officials tick off key priorities of fiscal sustainability, housing production and forest fire protection.
More controversial was her eventual decision to donate $ 10 million to a permanent library in Roseland, despite not knowing how, where or when such a facility would be built.
The council debated the issue before agreeing to reserve those funds while also allowing library supporters to show how they would use the money to provide a proper library for Roseland, which annexed the city in late 2017. The southwestern neighborhood of Santa Rosa, mainly Latino and historically underserved by local government, has contented itself with a library branch in a former furniture store on Sebastopol Road.
The lack of a select location or firm plan for a new Roseland library caused a pause in the council, but Alderman Jack Tibbetts sounded optimistic that the funding would be more than enough to create a library in southwest Santa Rosa that would one can be proud of.
“I think we’re actually going to get a pretty good library for less than $ 10 million,” said Tibbetts.
The decision stifled councilor Eddie Alvarez, a Roseland businessman who became the neighborhood’s first elected city official last November.
“I just wanted to let you guys know how important this is,” said Alvarez. “It really is. Thanks very much. And I know it probably generates more questions than answers, but that’s what hope is about. “
The Council’s preferences will be incorporated into the budget, which will be drawn up over the next few months and finalized in June.
There are still decisions pending on how to spend the remaining $ 27 million. Numerous potential projects remain unfunded, such as the fire department’s plan to build a $ 21 million fire station to replace the $ 4 million fire station that burned down in Tubbs in October 2017.
You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or [email protected] On Twitter @wsreports.