Chamber of Commerce asks county residents how to spend Dixie Fire settlement money

North state residents will never forget the Dixie Fire — the largest wildfire in California history that ravaged nearly a million acres in Lassen, Plumas, Butte, Shasta and Tehama counties for more than three months during the late summer and fall of 2021. The fire destroyed many small communities such as Greenville, Canyon Dam and Indian Falls. Thousands of residents were ordered to leave their homes because of threats from the enormous wildfire that started when a tree fell on a Pacific Gas and Electric Company powerline in the Feather River Canyon.

District attorneys from those five counties, including Lassen County District Attorney Susan Rios, negotiated a settlement with PG&E after filing a civil complaint against the investor-owned utility in Plumas County Superior Court. Lassen County received $5 million, and the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce’s share is $250,00.

The chamber held a public meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 at Jensen Hall to brainstorm how to best use the funds.

Chamber President Bill Payer welcomed several dozen residents and said, “The reason we’re here tonight — this is a stakeholders’ meeting regarding the funds that we received from PG&E through a settlement that was arranged by our district attorney Rios. She worked alongside other North State attorneys to create the settlement with PG&E over their responsibility for Dixie Fire last year. Lassen County, and she was instrumental in having this happen, was granted $5 million … Of that $5 million, $2 million was given to the Lassen Fire Safe Council, a million to the Lassen County Office of Education, the Lassen County chambers of commerce — there’s two, the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce and the Westwood Chamber of Commerce — between the two were granted $500,000. Tonight, we’re going to be talking about the $250,000 the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce was funded. In addition, Lassen Community College was granted $500,000, the Lassen volunteer fire departments were granted $900,000 and finally the DAs office, $100,000.”

Payer said the evening featured a round table discussion about, “What should we as the Lassen County Chamber of Commerce be considering as projects or uses for this $250,000 … We’re here this evening to gather information. We’re not going to make a decision tonight on what’s going to happen, but we want your input because — we’ve got a pretty strong board — but there’s going to be ideas out there we haven’t even considered. So that’s why we’re here.”

Ideas presented at the meeting included fixing blighted historical buildings; purchase new holiday lights; purchase a vacant lot on Main Street and make it a dedicated public space; commission more vibrant murals and street art; provide grants for small and start-up businesses; set aside funds for annual events such as festivals and concerts; invest in an outdoor arena for concerts and plays; entice larger chains and franchises to the area; finish Pancera Plaza; create a full-time marketing/PR job within the chamber; sidewalks in Susanville (specific to school zones); a promotional video of Lassen County; pickle ball for seniors; and the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway.

Ideas from residents included:
City — Crosswalks, safer bicycling, traffic improvements, Main Street beautification and façade restoration.

Business — Career fair/trade, marketing support, business plan assistance, micro grants for business and attract business for potential relocation.

Community — Industrial park, pickle ball court, Ranch Park restroom repair (already in progress), covered arena at fairgrounds, community event space and covered pool space.

Tourism — Advertising tourism, Lassen Volcanic National Park, welcome to Susanville mural, events and festivals, video promotion of our area and outlying areas.