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Monterey County sends more money to Pajaro flood recovery

PIX Now afternoon edition 12-6-23
PIX Now afternoon edition 12-6-23 07:16

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors directed more money Wednesday to aid residents and businesses in Pajaro that were impacted by flooding of the unincorporated community in March. 

The state provided $20 million to be used by the county specifically for recovery efforts for the community in the north county as part of a supplemental budget bill, Assembly Bill 102. 

About two dozen community members told the board during the public comment period for the proposal Tuesday that they needed more direct assistance than the board was initially proposing.

That led to modifications of the plan on Wednesday. 

"I think the feedback yesterday was heard loud and clear," said Supervisor Wendy Root Askew.

Supervisors unanimously approved the Pajaro Long-Term Recovery Plan with $10 million set aside for direct assistance, up from the original $6 million originally proposed by the county's Department of Emergency Management, which held a series of community meetings to come up with its proposal. 

The other $10 million will be split between project areas that include grants to community nonprofit organizations, street improvements, renovations to the community library so that it can reopen with office and community meeting space, improvements to Pajaro Park, and flood mitigation projects. 

Supervisor Glenn Church, whose district includes Pajaro, said that he was reluctant to completely cut out funding for ongoing nonprofit services, as well as street improvements, as one alternative proposal suggested. He acknowledged that the community had been neglected but said that the money provided by the state created a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact by undertaking the community projects. 

"We don't have that money that we can dip into to do that. It's going to be little pieces if we ever get something down here again, it's going to be a couple hundred thousand [dollars] here and there. This is one of the things that I see as sort of transformative to the community to show that it's not being neglected, and so, it's a one-time shot," Church said.

The plan will set aside $2 million for the community nonprofit grants to provide a range of resources, from language services to mental health counseling. 

Another $2 million was earmarked for street improvements like sidewalk enhancements and installing streetlights, as well as a community sign. 

The Pajaro Library will get $3.5 million for renovations and to make the entire three-story building accessible in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act and add meeting spaces for county offices and private businesses. Pajaro parks will get a $1.2 million boost. 

The remaining $1.3 million will be spent on other flood mitigation measures, including a digital message board at Pajaro Middle School, with $400,000 set aside for contingency costs. 

Meanwhile, permanent repairs to the levee will begin early next year and take several years to complete. Temporary repairs have been completed at one of the three breach sites, but the other two repairs have stalled, prompting supervisors to send a letter Wednesday to federal elected representatives asking them to ensure the repairs are expedited. 

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