Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, July 1 @ 1:33 p.m. / Infrastructure, Local Government
Del Norte Could Receive Additional Congressionally-Directed Spending Dollars for Dispatch Management, Pykes Field Renovation; County Still Waiting on $3.08 Million For Jail Renovations
Del Norte County still doesn’t have the $3.08 million in federal funding to pay for the renovation of its jail facility. But once it does receive those dollars, it should be “relatively unencumbered,” according to the county’s lobbyist in Washington D.C.
There’s also a potential for further Congressionally-directed spending dollars to be sent Del Norte County’s way courtesy of Congressman Jared Huffman and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, Greg Burns, of Thorn Run Partners told county supervisors on Tuesday.
According to Burns, Huffman has requested $550,000 to go toward upgrading the computer-aided dispatch and record management systems at the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office. And Padilla has requested $1.5 million to go toward the renovation of Pyke Field, Burns said.
“I will say those funds are not a done deal,” Burns said of Huffman’s request. “They’re not likely to fall out on their own, but this sort of Congressionally-directed spending tends to disappear as the year goes on and Congress has to work through the various bills. But we’re in as good of a spot as we can be with respect to that funding.”
Burns said he hoped that following the Nov. 8 general election and by the end of the Calendar year, he’d have good news to share with Del Norte County supervisors regarding to that potential $550,000.
As for Padilla’s request for $1.5 million to renovate Pyke Field, Burns said he didn’t know if that project was funded or not, but he should have an update some time this month.
Meanwhile, the $3.08 million for Del Norte County jail renovations came from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein last year. In March, county officials were told to expect those dollars, but not until the 2022-23 fiscal year, County Administrative Officer Neal Lopez told the Wild Rivers Outpost in May.
On Tuesday, Burns said he had been working with Lopez and Assistant CAO Randy Hooper to ensure the county actually receives that $3.08 million. But it doesn’t have them in hand yet, he told supervisors.
“I will say we’ve had a few ups and downs along the way, but we’ve certainly begun the conversations, figuring out what potential cost-shares there may be associated with the funds,” Burns said. “We’re happy to collectively report that it looks like it should be relatively unencumbered and provide you all with about as much flexibility as it can for that jail renovation as could be true with any federal funding ‘cause there’s always strings attached.”
In May, Lopez noted that because it had been 10 years since federal lawmakers were able to make funding requests through the Community-Funded Projects program, formerly known as earmarks, they were in the process of updating the guidelines for how local jurisdictions can spend that money.
That $3.08 million wouldn’t be enough to completely rebuild the jail, which was constructed in the 1960s and last renovated in the 1990s, but it could be used as a local match for further grants, potentially from the state, Lopez told the Outpost.
Burns also spoke about the Forest Opportunities for Resources and Education through Timber Sales (FORESTS) Act, HR 8091, introduced by Republican representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, of Washington State, on June 15.
On Tuesday, Del Norte County supervisors voted 4-0-1 to send a letter of support for the FORESTS Act to Huffman, Feinstein and Padilla without any discussion. District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard was absent.
According to a county staff report, the FORESTS Act would establish Forest Active Management Areas within national forests with a set annual volume requirement for timber production to manage areas that are “overstocked and suitable for commercial harvest.”
The act would encourage local collaboration in managing these areas, exclude their management from the National Environmental Policy Act process and allow those projects to forego judicial review in favor of arbitration if they’re litigated.
The FORESTS Act would also ensure that 25 percent of revenues generated by a management project within a Forest Active Management Area would go to local counties, according to the county’s staff report.
Most of Del Norte County consists of public land, primarily the Six Rivers National Forest, which is susceptible to wildfire. The staff report also states that the 25 percent share in timber sales to counties required by the FORESTS Act would prohibit states from withholding those dollars.
“It’s a very broad bill and it’s got a lot of interesting things in it,” Burns said of the proposed FORESTS Act. “I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere in this Congress, to be blunt. But, that said, it doesn’t hurt to have it as a marker for the next Congress, particularly if we do see the kind of electoral changes in the makeup of Congress many people expect.”