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Monday, January 30, 2023

Butte County Supervisors consider PG&E settlement cost center – Chico Enterprise-Record

OROVILLE — The Butte County Board of Supervisors discussed a new policy for the county’s Pacific Gas and Electric Co. settlement fund that will reserve additional funding going forward.

After the Camp Fire, Butte County filed a lawsuit against PG&E that eventually resulted in a settlement of $252 million, of which the county netted $206.5 million after paying attorney fees. The money was put into a fund to go toward maintenance, rebuilding and recovery after the fire. Flash forward to September 2022 and the Butte County Probation Department took out a loan from the fund for its new office that it is paying back. The interest generated from this would go toward what Chief Administrative Officer Andy Pickett suggested as a cost center.

The goal of the cost center, Pickett said, is to reserve funding for projects within the burn scar. Annually, the interest will bring in about $400,000 to go toward this cost center.

During its meeting Tuesday, the board approved the cost center after some discussion and minor adjustments. The cost center initially focused on road maintenance in the burn scar but supervisors agreed that the fund should be spent on a broader list of items beyond just road repair.

Supervisor Tami Ritter suggested that the money be allowed to go toward things like generators and other projects connected to the fire while Supervisor Bill Connelly suggested reopening the recently closed fire stations in rural areas.

During the public comment period, John Stonebreaker offered suggestions as to how the money could be spent as well as how the county could conduct outreach to those in unincorporated communities affected by the fire.

“I do appreciate that the board has brought this back on the agenda, as I requested, and is specifically trying to put some of this money into the burn scar,” Stonebreaker said. “But I think that if you want to do what is best for the people are most directly affected by the Camp Fire, you can ask us. And not just me, but hundreds of us would be happy to tell you these are the issues we still have.”

Stonebreaker added that the closure of the Stirling City fire station affects Magalia because if there is an emergency in Stirling City, it would take the only resource Magalia has for its emergencies, showing support for reopening Stirling City’s station.

Supervisor Peter Durfee echoed the sentiments of other supervisors saying he didn’t want to limit what the funding could do.

Ultimately, the staff was asked to return at a later meeting with additional information to consider alternative options. The policy could return with fewer limitations on what the money can be spent on.

Other business

Aside from discussing and approving the cost center for the PG&E settlement, the board held the following discussions:

  • An adjustment to the county’s contract with Behavioral Health Director Scott Kennelly, adding 3% to his annual salary putting it at $165,038.96.
  • A resolution was approved for a grant agreement allowing for an electric vehicle charging station for the Butte County Air Quality Management District.
  • Cal Fire-Butte County provided an informational presentation on a Fire Hazard Severity Zone map update.
  • The board was provided with an update on the county general plan and adopted its housing element.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors next meets at 9 a.m. Feb. 14 at its chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. Meetings are free and open to the public.

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