Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 @ 5:07 p.m. / Community, Infrastructure, Local Government
Klamath Fire To Get $1,000 In County Funds; Supervisors Approve 2019-2020 Budget
Though three didn’t want to set precedent, county supervisors agreed to allocate $1,000 to the Klamath Chamber of Commerce to purchase equipment for the community’s fire department.
The $1,000 had been earmarked for the cleanup of a Caltrans median on U.S. 101, but hadn’t been spent. On Tuesday, David Jones, president of the Klamath Chamber of Commerce, asked that money be transferred to his organization so it could purchase equipment and repair vehicles for the Klamath Fire Protection District.
“In recent years, the equipment has fallen into disrepair along with the ability to respond to emergencies effectively,” Jones said. “They’re doing a great job of trying to maintain their equipment the limited funds they have.”
With the exception of District 4 Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors approved the county’s 2019-2020 budget, directing staff to allocate $1,000 to the Klamath Chamber of Commerce.
District 5 Supervisor Bob Berkowitz, who represents Klamath, said he thought Jones made a compelling argument and proposed allocating that funding.
“We already have this $1,000 in this budget not designated to be used for the purposes it was originally designated for,” he said. “Therefore, transferring these funds from its purpose to the Klamath Chamber of Commerce, it’s basically cost-free because that money has already been budgeted for.”
The chamber would use the $1,000 to purchase a new three-inch water pump to replace an old one on the department’s water tender, Jones said. It would also repair another water pump on an engine at the department’s Klamath Glen station, he said. That engine has been out of service for about two years, Jones said.
Though Klamath Fire is its own district, Jones said, it has very limited funds. He said the $1,000 would help relieve financial pressure on the department and ensure its fire engines are operating in all areas of Klamath.
During the discussion, however, District 4 Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen said he was concerned about the precedent of giving money to entities that are already self funded.
“We could open up a door that will never close,” Hemmingsen said. “We can take that money and use it, probably within (county) departments now that are needed. I sympathize with the Klamath Fire Department’s issues, but I think we need to find a different funding source.”
County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina said though it was lean, the budget he was presenting before the Board of Supervisors was balanced. County staff used budget transfers and one-time funds where available to “get where we’re at today.”
In addition to asking supervisors to approve the 2019-2020 budget, Sarina asked the county to allocate money from the Stimson Fund to allow the Del Norte County District Attorney’s Office to lease a vehicle.
District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin said he concurred with Berkowitz’s statements regarding the Klamath Fire Department, but questioned the decision to use Stimson Fund dollars for a vehicle for the DA’s office.
“Isn’t the purpose of the Stimson Fund strictly for economic purposes?” Gitlin asked Sarina. “We had a discussion before (on) how Stimson Funds are used, what is the justification for providing a vehicle to the District Attorney for economic reasons.”
At previous meetings, Gitlin had requested using Stimson Fund dollars to help Crescent City pay for repairs to the Fred Endert Municipal Pool. At previous meetings, Gitlin also proposed deferring a $96,000 loan payment to the Stimson Fund on behalf of the terminal project at the Del Norte County Regional Airport.
On Tuesday, Sarina answered Gitlin, saying that supervisors previously voted to use the fund to purchase four cars for the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office. He said that was the second time the Board of Supervisors voted to use Stimson Fund dollars for patrol vehicles.
“It is one opportunity for us to be able to save a little money on interest while still paying back the general fund,” he said. “A single car in that case, would benefit a general fund department that hadn’t received a car in years.”
District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard said the county budget is going to continue to experience short falls. He praised Sarina and County Auditor Clint Schaad on working with department managers to find a balance.
Howard noted that a significant revenue stream for the county is transient occupancy tax, the 8 percent extra visitors to hotels and motels in the county pay.