Clear Creek CSD address grant funding concerns

The Clear Creek Community Services District Board of Directors met for its regular meeting Feb. 6 inside the Fire Hall of the Clear Creek Firehouse.

Discussion centered round two main topics: The Lassen County Fire Safe Council grant and the fire chief’s report on the recent structural fire in Clear Creek in the early morning of Jan 24.


Financials report

Once the Financials Report was reviewed and approved by unanimous vote, the board shifted its attention to Maintenance Manager J. D. Hackett’s update on his work in the district’s Water Department.


Water Department report

Hackett said a bid in the amount of $950 plus parts and inspection services needed approval for the district-owned main generator.

He also informed the directors that the water samples he tested were good.

Hackett said he was able to save the district up to $2,300 using residents and a backhoe when they replaced a segment in the main water line at two locations during the month.

He went on to report that the temperature at the springhouse was 36 degrees at the intake, and he had purchased a brand new sump pump from a Texas company identical to the one used in Hamilton Branch, featuring a better design, adding that the amount of water used in the district for the month of January was 236,000 gallons.

There were no shutoff notices issued during the same month, he said.

Hackett also stated that he shoveled out snow in one day from 14 fire hydrants located around town, as well as he removed snow that had piled up in front of the Clear Creek firehouse.

Hackett assisted fire crews by manning the pump room during the structural fire at 463-080 Clear Creek Drive.

Finally, Hackett said he appreciated Hamilton Branch for accommodating the district by providing any extra replacement parts that he needed for emergency repairs, which he said were always resupplied back to their inventory at a later date.


Fire Chief’s Report

Fire Chief John Hunter informed the board that fighting the major structural fire in Clear Creek on Jan. 24 had some serious challenges due to low water pressure in the main water line that was inefficient in effectively fightng the fire, even with support from Clear Creek Fire Department, Westwood Fire Department, Hamilton Branch Fire District, Peninsula Fire, Chester Fire Department and CalFire all responding.

Another concern raised by Hunter was what he would do in case J. D. Hackett wasn’t available to manage the pump house during future conflagrations.

Hunter went on to say that he needs at least 1,000 gallons per minute for a minimum of 60 minutes (60,000 gallons) to successfully fight future house fires, saying, “That’s pretty standard.”

He noted that during the recent fire on Clear Creek Dr. there were four attack lines going off two fire engines, and yet it was still inadequate to supply those lines with enough water to fight the fire effectively.

In addition, he said the substandard main water line in the district supplying fire hydrants is just three inches in diameter, but should be at least four inches in diameter instead, which of course would require major funding to upgrade.

As an aside, Hunter remarked that the town had too few fire hydrants. “The national standard is one hydrant every 400 feet. … We only have 19 hydrants and ideally we need a total of 36 hydrants.”

Hackett shared that a backhoe is currently available to the district, so that a new water main could be installed should the district receive a grant within the next few years, to which Hunter added that such a project should be a priority.

Also discussed was how the town of Clear Creek needs (as part of the water grant) a 290,000-gallon water tank on a nearby ridge with at least 55 psi, which Hunter acknowledged would be adequate.

Because the need for upgrades was critical, the board members again raised the need to increase water rates soon to provide a reserve fund that would be used to modernize necessary equipment.

Referring back to the recent house fire, Hunter said he had ordered up a water tender, but it never arrived.

“This time of year most water tenders are out-of-service because you end up with a big ice cube” due to the cold weather.

Even with all the fire engines that arrived on scene, he said all the water that was carried in their tanks was used up in mere minutes, further emphasizing the need to upgrade the town’s main water line.


Tree service grants

Tom Esgate with Lassen County Fire Safe Council spoke to the board and local residents attending the meeting to address concerns regarding the criteria used in choosing how grant monies were spent to remove trees from 40 properties in Clear Creek, as required by the terms of the granting agency; funding comes from Cap-and-Trade revenues, also known as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, consisting of California Climate Investments state grants for Innovative  Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Carbon Sequestration projects.

CAL FIRE administers the grants to qualified local and regional partners that implement forest treatment and conservation activities on state, local, tribal, federal, and private lands.

The lengthy and sometimes contentious discussion involved community members asking what factors were applied in deciding which residences would receive tree falling services and which other properties would not.

One problem raised by a few of the residents at the meeting was that they had been part of the original list of some 60 property-owners vying for a share of the grant monies, and wanted to know why their homes were overlooked.

Esgate, who wrote the grant request totaling $448,048 for Clear Creek, explained that priorities were established by him, dependent on certain compliance standards required by the terms of the grant.

“We represented that we would treat fuels around 40 homes, and I made some of my decisions based on those that could be done the most economically,” he explained. “And so I decided that the number one priority was going to be properties along Clear Creek Dr. because a lot of material could be processed on the vacant property near the church, which would be a lot less expensive” than starting with properties in the interior of town.

He said that if he hadn’t gotten additional funds from PG&E for the work that needed to be done, crews wouldn’t have been able to finish the entire number of home sites planned for.

Individuals in the audience remained unhappy with his explanation. They stated they would then need to spend thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to cut down hazardous trees on their respective properties themselves.

“Clear Creek probably has 80 percent more trees than it should,” Esgate estimated. “So my focus was on getting as many trees removed as possible” using the grant money available based on his “personal assessment” on where best to spend funds to “get the most bang for the buck.”

One of the attendees chimed in to say that many in the community were frustrated by what they asserted was a lack of communication between the district and property owners who weren’t selected from the initial sign-up list.

Board chair Cathy Hunter suggested that a special future meeting could be scheduled where the public would participate to better understand the methodology used when deciding which homes would be serviced first.

This would make the process more transparent and hopefully ameliorate the concerns of Clear Creek residents, she said, adding that a meeting prior to tree work will prevent any complicated misunderstandings.

“Hopefully in the future we communicate better,” allowing the community to have a better take on the process, Esgate said.

Hunter thanked Esgate for all the work he does for the district, recognizing that not everybody will concur with his decision-making.

The next round of state grants totaling $200 million is expected to become available in April 2021, said Esgate — for which he hopes to write another grant proposal, requesting a portion of this fund of up to $600,000 in community treatments earmarked for use in the town of Clear Creek.

Upon approval, he expects to encompass more of the homeowners who had been left out in the first go around, adding that he is also looking for an assistant to carry some of the load of his job.


Action items

The board voted to approve the formation of a committee to update the rules, rates and regulations governing the district, with board members Jessica Greene and Rod Twain appointed to the new committee.

The board approved the following action items:

  • Support an increase to the district’s credit card limits up to $1,000.
  • Records Retention •Policy/Schedule from one to seven years or in some cases permanently depending on the type of records in the district’s files.
  • Approve transfer of funds to balance the current budget.

An audit error was later corrected during the meeting by reallocating $775.80 from the line item Salaries to Rents.

The board approved the bid amount on the annual maintenance of the main firehouse generator.