By Bruce McPherson
With a week of sunshine, it’s tempting to forget about the winter’s deluge and the associated storm damage. Tempting, but not possible. As of Wednesday, March 29, the County has 187 damage sites on roads in the unincorporated area, with an estimated $97 million in damage. Dozens and dozens more private roads were damaged.
Recovery will be a long process – and we are just getting started. I wanted to share some of the options available to residents who had storm damage to their private property, roads or businesses.
SBA Loans for Homeowners & Renters
By far, the best deal around for private property and road damage is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Homeowners and renters who experienced uninsured damages during storms that occurred between February 1 and February 25 are eligible for low cost repair loans from the SBA.
Eligible damages are wide-ranging and include property damage, personal property and economic damages. Road associations can also apply. Individual loans can be issued for up to $200,000 with up to a 30-year loan repayment. Businesses and road associations can apply for a loan of up to $2 million. Interest on the loans ranges from 1.875 percent for homeowners to 2.5 percent for private non-profits such as road associations, and 3.15 percent for businesses.
Through mid-April, the SBA will have an office on the third floor of the County Building, located at701 Ocean Street, where residents can apply for assistance. Applicants may also complete the process online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. The deadline for physical damage applications is May 19. The deadline for economic damages is December 20.
FEMA Grants for Road Repairs
Another option to recoup from storm damage for some residents are FEMA grants. However, that option is limited to road associations, which operate under a County Service Area (CSA). Many of the existing 30 CSAs will be able to apply as part of the overall County application for federal and state funds that can cover up to 83.75 percent of the costs, with a local 6.25 percent local share.
However, that is only true for the existing CSAs that had damage during the January storms. Property owners can’t form a CSA now to retroactively fund repairs – and we’re still waiting to learn whether the February storms will be covered.
Setting up a CSA is not cheap (about $10,000) or fast (an 8 to 10 month process). Because they are almost a “little government” to pay for customized services, whether that’s roadwork or to build a bridge, CSA’s must adhere to public bidding processes. That means the repairs often cost more.
But, CSA’s do have a big plus factor. Once residents decide how much to assess themselves — and vote to approve the amount — the assessments are collected as part of your annual property tax payments. My advice would be to explore setting up a CSA now to be eligible for FEMA and state funds in the future, if needed. Your first stop is LAFCO, 454-2055.
Would you like to hear about something besides roads and storm damage? Good. How about parks?
Our County Parks Department is holding public meetings in April and May to hear what you want from your County parks. These strategic plan public meetings are intended to guide the future of our parks, programs and facilities — regional parks, neighborhood and community parks, arts, community events, youth programs, teen programs and adult and senior programs.
The first meeting is Wednesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Highlands County Park in Ben Lomond. I hope to see you there. Please visit www.scparks.com/strategicplan for more information and updates.
Now is also an important time for the Bear Creek Country Club, the newest park in the Fifth District. The Boulder Creek Parks and Recreation District is kicking off a two-year campaign to raise $600,000 to renovate the former country club. The first piece of that effort is to raise $6,000 to pay for a portable pool lift and door threshold ramps that are need for the facility to meet codes for accessibility to allow public use.
To donate, visit the website at www.bcrpd.org.