May 16, 2023 — Tulare County Board of Supervisors
Documented by Dani Huerta
What happened: At its Tuesday meeting, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors approved the declaration of an emergency due to damage of county roads, bridges, and related infrastructure.
Resource Management Agency Director Reed Schenke described the damage in the county as “massive” and said that that there is currently an estimated $46 million in damage, mostly to roads and bridges, at more than 200 locations.
Schenke said they are “hopeful” that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse some of the repair costs, but that, “there’s no real guarantees with FEMA.”
“We haven’t seen this level of damage for the roads before,” Schenke said. “We’re optimistic, but we need to keep in the back of our mind what would happen if we were out on our own for this.”
In order to expedite repairs, the supervisors also authorized Schenke to enter into informal bid contracts with qualified contractors to design, build and install necessary repairs in amounts not to exceed $2,000 per repair contract, as well as approve contract change orders of up to $2 million.
As a requirement for bypassing the formal bid process, the RMA must provide an update on contracts every 14 days.
Schenke said there are still five roads that do not have vehicular access and provided an update on several road projects, including M109 over Deer Creek Bridge, Reservation Road, M363 Bridge over North Fork Kaweah River, and M56 at Manter Meadows over Capinero Creek.
Following Schenke’s presentation, Supervisor Micari asked if FEMA can also reimburse for any future damages and Schenke said they can in some ways, but it depends on the project.
Supervisor Pete Vander Poel asked if updates on the projects could be made more available to the public.
“We need to make sure the public is aware of the work that is being done and also general timelines of when that work is being done,” he said.
Supervisor Eddie Valero said that he was at a meeting in Three Rivers with FEMA and the Small Business Administration recently.
“In terms of private assistance, a representative from FEMA said that Tulare County has received the most, which is 50% of all counties that are on the list of emergency,” Valero said. “Again not to the point we would like it to be, but know that Tulare County is first on the list.”
Up next: The Tulare County Board of Supervisors will meet again on May 23.