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City to use emergency funds for windstorm clean up

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The City of Claremont has released its assessment of the financial toll from the January 21 windstorm and will pay the bill using its emergency reserves.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, City Manager Adam Pirrie’s office requested an appropriation of $415,000 from the operating and environmental emergency reserve to pay for the city’s response to the storm. That number would include both city staff expenses and money paid to contractors.

Secondly, the council approved an amendment to the urban forest maintenance agreement with West Coast Arborist, adding $250,000 to pay for the tree and debris removal the company performed during and in the months following the storm. The money paid to WCA is part of the $415,000 taken from the emergency reserve and not an additional cost.

The city has spent about $375,000 in response to the storm including staffing, contract services and acquiring equipment to respond quickly to safety hazards from fallen trees and tree limbs that posed safety hazard or blocked the public right-of-way. The city anticipates an additional $40,000 will be needed for any remaining clean up.

During his comments, Pirrie thanked the Los Angeles County Fire Department for sending crews to the city to help with the clean up, specifically removing large trees from numerous roadways. The cost estimate does not include the value of the lost trees or the price the city will have to pay to replace those trees, which is expected to reach $1 million. The $415,000 does not include clean up or damage caused by fallen trees on private property.

On February 22, the council approved spending $50,000 from its Measure R funds to pay for the repair of sidewalk, curb and gutters that were damaged by falling trees. Staff will work to replace lost trees from its annual tree planting budget.

After paying for the clean up, the balance in the operating and environmental emergency reserve will be $5,977,021, or 21.4% of general fund expenditures and transfers out. City policy is to maintain 25% of general fund expenditures in the emergency fund, and if it experiences a budget surplus this year the intention would be to direct that money into the emergency fund.

During its April 12 meeting, the council agreed to pay West Coast Arborist $36,855 to complete a level 1 assessment of the city’s urban forest. This action was taken to evaluate the “full magnitude” of the January 21 windstorm and determine “what was removed, recommended maintenance, and to identify trees that require further assessment and possible removal.” The action was taken as part of the consent calendar, meaning there was no discussion during the meeting.

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