Update 4/22: City Manager Laura Snideman sent Half Moon Bay Patch two general documents pertaining to Half Moon Bay's $750,000 grant issued in 2009 from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Both have been posted in PDF format and can be viewed in the media box to the right.
According to a FEMA document, Half Moon Bay received the second-largest grant of all California cities which were awarded money that year, and the third-largest award out of all 10 California recipients in 2009.
Documents show that then-Interim City Manager Michael Dolder signed off to state and federal requirements for the grant on Aug. 18, 2009.
The grant, which will reimburse Half Moon Bay $750,000 or 75 percent of its expenditures on the project, expires on May 31, 2012. City Finance Manager Jan Cooke said that the city has budgeted for the $250,000 it is responsible for from its Public Facilities Reserve account.
Half Moon Bay Patch has requested a copy of the original grant document from the city.
Time is running out for Half Moon Bay to capitalize on $750,000 of federal seed money to fund an emergency operations center (EOC), yet city officials said Tuesday night that they could only pursue the construction project cautiously due to several constraining factors.
"Our hands are tied," said Mayor Naomi Patridge at the special study session that was called for the City Council to decide upon a course of action—or inaction.
Patridge was referring to what seemed to be the main sticking point in the deliberations on whether to unreservedly move forward or not: the grant details plans to build the EOC next to the Half Moon Bay police facility.
"It's my understanding that funding of the grant is tied to the specific site location written in the proposal," said Half Moon Bay City Manager Laura Snideman.
Yet with the decision made on April 2 to the city's police services to the San Mateo County Sheriff, Half Moon Bay and the Sheriff's Office has not negotiated where the substation serving Half Moon Bay will be located.
"I don't know if we'll have an answer to that in the next two months," Interim Police Chief Lee Violett said, who added that the city "just started" discussions with the Sheriff's Office regarding contract negotiations for police services.
"I’d rather not spend the money than spend it improperly," Vice Mayor Allan Alifano said. "We have to know where the sheriff will be located; otherwise, it will be premature."
That's not the only limiting factor. The 2009 grant from the Department of Homeland Security, which has agreed to reimburse the city 75 percent of the estimated EOC building cost, stipulated that the project must be completed by May 2012—in a little over a year. Obtaining a grant extension at this point in time appears to be time-consuming in a best case scenario or unlikely in a worst case scenario.
The amount of money needed to complete the project is unclear. Snideman laid out two budget scenarios in the meeting handout, estimating the building costs between $1.1 million to $1.7 million. However, later in the meeting she added that "I don't believe that either of the proposed budgets are correct." And earlier this month, the city received a bid for work on the building's fiber optic cables—just the first step in the building process, according to Snideman.
Why the delay?
First, Snideman points to tasks the city's accomplished over the last year and a half: the development of preliminary plans and cost estimates for the EOC; selection of a site for the EOC next to the city's police station; development of secure communications between City Hall, the Ted Adcock Senior/Community Center, and an AT&T telephone hub; and state/federal government approval of plans and cost estimates.
"There were also several city managers during this time," Snideman said, referring to the last two years since the grant was approved. She also cited bond payments on the $18 million Beachwood lawsuit (in 2009) as reasons why the city hasn't made more progress on the grant to date.
Residents Jim Henderson and Donald Friese urged the council to move forward with the project.
"I don't think that leaving a $750,000 gift on the table is a legacy that this council wants to leave the citizens of the Coastside," said Henderson, a Canada Cove resident.
Friese, who said about 20 of the approximate two dozen in the audience were those from Canada Cove and Ocean Colony he had encouraged to attend the meeting, commented to the council that the EOC was needed due to the "earthquake we'll have" and that Half Moon Bay has $250,000 in grant matching funds to allocate towards the project.
"It was confirmed by the city's Finance Director" that funds have been set aside for this purpose, Friese said. Jan Cooke, the city's Finance Director, could not be contacted for comment at the time of publication and was not at last night's meeting.
"This minute we have a well-functioning EOC," Alifano said, referring to the Main St. fire station used during last month's . "[There are] too many items unknown at this point to make any solid decisions," he said.
"We're here to support whatever decision the city makes," said Lt. Ed Barbarino, a deputy with the Sheriff's Office who works with San Mateo County's Emergency Operations Center.
"Any request for a grant extension would have an extension plan and specific deliverables," Barbarino said. "I am offering our services to the city to manage the grant. It’s not in our interest to take over but the sheriff has expressed his desire to me to lend our support to help with this," he said.
When asked by Half Moon Bay Patch for a copy of the city's federal EOC grant, Snideman replied that she did not have a copy.
"I don't know if we don't have a copy of that," she said. "[Former Half Moon Bay Police] Chief Don O'Keefe has been dealing with the paperwork."
O'Keefe left his position in September 2010 and was replaced with Interim Police Chief Lee Violett shortly afterwards.
"It's my job to take care of the policy and not the paperwork," Snideman said.
Snideman says she believes that a copy of the grant is in O'Keefe's files. "I will start going into those files for the grant," she said.