Signal Hill still waiting for FEMA to help pay for costs of January storm damage

By Nick Diamantides
Staff Writer

The impact of last January’s rainstorms is still being felt in Southern California. The City of Signal Hill, still grappling with ongoing reductions in revenue, is hoping to get $26,711 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as reimbursement for the city’s costs in dealing with floods resulting from those storms. Although the city requested FEMA reimbursement several months ago, it has not come yet. During its Tuesday evening meeting, the Signal Hill City Council authorized several city staff members to sign additional documents requesting the reimbursement.
“During the week of January 17, 2010, the city experienced record rainfall, requiring emergency action from the Public Works Department,” said Rick Olson, deputy director of that department, in a report he prepared for the council. “Field crews worked diligently responding to calls for assistance from the city’s residential and business community, as well as the Signal Hill Police Department and LA County Fire Department.“
Olson noted that average rainfall for the entire month of January is approximately 2.5 inches, but during the week of January 17, 5.65 inches of rain fell on Signal Hill, and 3.9 inches of that rain fell on January 19 and 20.
“Public works assigned field crews to each area of the city, providing heavier staffing in the more problematic areas in town,” Olson said. “The field crews were busy clearing storm drain grates and removing debris from catch basin openings, which ultimately prevented severe flooding.” He added that Public Works employees also cleared mud and debris from city streets, responded to community requests for sandbags and provided traffic control where needed.
“The majority of the damage to city property was related to erosion,” Olson said. “In addition to all the heavy mud clean-up, erosion-related problems included the exposure of an eight-inch water line past the dead-end of Lewis Avenue, the loss of a slope and the undermining of a portion of the west side of California Avenue north of 28th Street.” He noted that the Hilltop Reservoir pump station also experienced problems with some electrical equipment.
In his report, Olson told the council that the State of California declared a disaster in Los Angeles County on January 20 allowing cities and the County to seek reimbursement for certain storm-related costs. “For projects involving damage to roads and bridges, water-control facilities, buildings and public utility systems, all labor, equipment, materials and contractor costs are eligible for reimbursement,” Olson said. “For projects involving debris removal and protective measures (sandbags), only overtime labor, equipment and materials are eligible for reimbursement.“
Olson explained that city staff had submitted worksheets for reimbursement to the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA), through which FEMA channels funds in the state, but CalEMA sent a letter to the City requesting additional documents. “Staff has completed the necessary documents and is awaiting authorization to sign and return the documents to the CalEMA office,” Olson said. The council gave staff the authorization on a 4-0 vote. Mayor Ed Wilson was absent from the meeting.
In a separate action, the council adopted a resolution finding the city to be in conformance with the Los Angeles County Congestion Management Program (CMP), a state-mandated program aimed at mitigating the impacts of new developments on traffic congestion. In order to receive its share of state gas-tax revenues, the City must certify its conformance to CMP annually. In Fiscal Year 2009-10, Signal Hill received approximately $170,000 in gas-tax revenues.
In other actions, the council authorized Chief of Police Tom Sonoff to fill a vacant dispatcher jailer position, appointed Wilson as an alternate voting delegate to the September 15-17 business meeting of the League of California Cities, gave permission to Friends of Signal Hill Cultural Arts (FOSHCA) to use city media to advertise the organization’s October 9 “Show and Sell” event, and gave FOSHCA permission to sell alcoholic beverages at that event.
The next meeting of the city council is scheduled for 7pm on Sept. 7 in the council chamber of Signal Hill City Hall.

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