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State grant, federal SRS funds bankroll county’s fire mitigation

'When the sheriff’s office goes out on fires and works, after July, it comes out of my fund'

Idaho County Courthouse

Photo by David Rauzi
Idaho County Courthouse

— The Secure Rural Schools (SRS, a.k.a. federal forest funds) reauthorized by Congress earlier this year flows not only to highway districts and local schools. Some of it funds small forestry projects through Idaho County’s fire mitigation department.

But the county’s fire mitigation arm also has put some state money to work: About $111,000 so far this year, fire mitigation manager Randy Doman told county commissioners Tuesday, May 1. Competitive grant money will reimburse eight projects that have already been done, pending Doman’s paperwork, and another bit of fire mitigation prescribed burning known as Harpster Face is planned.

“As soon as I get Harpster Face burned, I’ll get about $25,000 back from that,” Doman reported to the board during a mid-cycle budget review. “It has not been a very conducive spring for burning.”

The county commission is obligated to allocate a portion of SRS to Doman’s department when it arrives, which is anticipated in June.

Beyond making use of both federal and state money in its effort to ward off disasters, the fire mitigation budget covers contract workers tapped during wildfire season.

Here’s how Doman put it when commissioner Mark Frei asked him to account for the fire mitigation workers compensation line, which was overspent more than 22-fold halfway through the year:

“When the sheriff’s office goes out on fires and works, after July, it comes out of my fund,” Doman said. “Title III reimburses that. That’s why the worker’s comp goes nuts.”

That sparked a discussion of how the commission would handle the insurance for fire season contract workers absent SRS, during which commission chairman Skip Brandt pointed out that when it comes to emergency work, “whenever we do that, it’s going to throw that department line item in the red.”

While most of the SRS money goes to local schools and highway districts, the law requires the county commission to split 15 percent of it between Title II – allocated by a Resource Advisory Committee – and Title III, which bankrolls fire mitigation projects such as the Tahoe Fire Mitigation work the commission bid out last month.

Brandt asked Doman to give the board a complete list of the state-funded projects and dollar amounts involved.

Frei inquired about one other budget line – Doman’s supplies – and Doman reported a $2,000 purchase of a computer for mapping.


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