County Fields New Requests for Measure Z Funds

The county has received close to $14 million in applications for Measure Z sales tax funding, with the largest requests coming from its Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Works and the Humboldt County Fire Chiefs’ Association.

The deadline for submitting applications was Feb. 19 and 43 of them came in. Private and public agencies are making their cases for Measure Z funding that will be approved for the 2016 to 2017 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

Collection of the five-year, half-cent Measure Z public safety sales tax went into effect April 1 and it’s expected to generate $9.4 million by the end of its first year.

The most substantial request for the upcoming fiscal year is from the agency most closely associated with on-the-street public safety — the Sheriff’s Office.

The office is requesting continuation of its current Measure Z allotment of $3.15 million for 30 new staff positions. The request seeks another $1.9 million for four more deputy sheriffs, a correctional facility lieutenant, a community services officer, an animal control officer and a rescue/recovery vehicle.

The county’s Department of Public Works is seeking $2.5 million for road resurfacing, which is described in the application as a means of “reducing response time for law enforcement, fire protection, and emergency services.”

The Humboldt County Fire Chiefs Association is asking for $2.2 million — the same amount it was awarded for the current fiscal year — to purchase “the minimum level of safety equipment needed to equip volunteer firefighters,” plus continuation of support for payment of dispatch fees and support of a “formal planning effort to address the mismatch between fire-related district boundaries and where the fire service provides emergency response on a regular basis.”

The County Administrative Office is seeking $1 million to help solve a persistent and vexing problem — the county’s ever-ballooning debt on its California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) cost obligations.

Measure Z has succeeded in allowing increased staff levels in various law enforcement-related county offices and according to an application from the county Public Defender’s Office, the office is now “unable to provide competent representation to indigent persons facing involuntary deprivation of liberty or other fundamental rights.”

The office is seeking $629,722 in funding to hire additional staff.

Several Measure Z funding requests propose programs to address homelessness.

The City of Eureka’s Police Department is asking for a renewal of funding for a Mobile Intervention Services Team to assist homeless people. The request is for $459,140.

In a package of requests, the non-profit Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA) group is asking for-$55,000 to develop and operate a “safe, legal, transitional safe parking program” for homeless people living in their vehicles. Multiple sites — “at least three in the first year” — will serve at least 30 people.

The AHHA group also requests $55,548 for a Sanctuary Camp and $65,933 for a Tiny House Village.

In its applications, the group acknowledges that the City of Eureka and the county are jointly considering a plan that emphasizes a “housing first” approach and AHHA’s proposals are presented as interim shelter solutions.

Alcohol and Drug Care Services, Inc. is requesting $575,000 to buy and remodel a former nursing care facility just outside Eureka city limits as a headquarters for the council’s detox and residential drug treatment services.

Other Measure Z requests include one from the Humboldt County Auditor-Controller’s Office for $48,940 to cover payroll staff, as “the increase of approximately 50 to 65 new positions through Measure Z funds adds strain to a division that is already operating on a reduced staffing level.”

Another request from the County Administrative Office is for $252,855 to establish Route 299 corridor firefighting services through establishment of new contracts.

A Measure Z Citizens’ Advisory Committee will begin evaluating the new applications at a meeting on March 10.