New generators, MRE rations, a tow vehicle, a transformer, a manual transfer switch and room to plan. That’s some of what the state gave the Tri-Counties when it awarded almost $2 million to the region in the most recent round of Community Power Resiliency Program funding, according to state public records provided to the Business Times.
The statewide grant program, which has awarded close to $50 million, is meant to provide communities with resources to deal with the growing likelihood of extended power outages. In the tri-county region, the money went to counties, cities, special districts and tribes. The cities of Santa Maria and Santa Paula both got $300,000, and the city of Santa Barbara got $169,600. At the county level, San Luis Obispo received $111,167, while Santa Barbara was given $233,635 and Ventura got $285,487.
A couple of local water districts also received grant money from the state: The Goleta Water District got $105,000, the Santa Barbara County Fire Protection District was given $160,699 and United Water Conservation District in Ventura County got $198,612. Tribes also received money from the state, including the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians, which received $108,400.
The money went to local projects designed to help communities and their energy infrastructures be more prepared for disasters. Some governments, like the city of Santa Paula and the county of Ventura, bought additional power generators, which will help maintain critical services and shelters during emergencies.
“Without this grant from the state, the city would have difficulty funding the infrastructure needed to help keep the city moving during a power outage,” said Dan Singer, Santa Paula’s city manager, in a press release. “We are grateful for the state’s commitment to helping communities like ours, especially in light of the unpredictable emergency situations we have experienced over the past several years.”
For Ventura County, the generator is one of a laundry list of things it wants to use its funding for. Patrick Maynard, the director of the Ventura County Office of Emergency Services, said the county is also getting $95,000 in meals ready to eat, which will have a five-year shelf life, and $20,000 for equipment to provide cell phone charging at shelters. Another $60,000 is going for a tow vehicle to transport generators, and the county is putting aside $50,000 of the money toward a community needs assessment to find out which residents and neighborhoods aren’t well-served by the current emergency response plans.
Santa Barbara is also looking at using the funding to create a road map for the community. Alelia Parenteau, the energy and climate manager for the city of Santa Barbara, said the city will use the money to build an energy resilience plan.
Parenteau wants to work within the community to develop resiliency hubs, like libraries and community centers, where people will be able to go during disasters to get information and recharge their devices. Those hubs wouldn’t provide shelter, but they could help residents get access to news and social media if power went out for several days.
Ideally, the grant would also cover battery power generation for those facilities, but “$170,000 doesn’t go super far when you’re trying to buy infrastructure,” Parenteau said.
Another goal for the city is to get community leaders together to figure out what other needs Santa Barbara might have during an emergency, which will open the door for additional city projects and grants.
SLO County isn’t sure where the money it received is going yet, but Scott Milner, the emergency services coordinator for the county, said it’s collecting proposals for generators from school districts, and that priority will be given to schools that also act as emergency shelters.
“Every little bit helps,” Milner said.