A local nonprofit organization recently donated $2 million to Santa Barbara County to fund the construction of an emergency response center.
County Supervisors are currently debating the creation of a local response center, which would coordinate emergency services during disasters like last year’s wildfires. Some officials, however, are worried funding the project in a bad economy could be risky for county finances.
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, a supporter of the project, said the recent donation will help clear financial obstacles to the project.
“In my mind, the funding is there,” Wolf said. “We have put about $1.5 million into the planning and assessment of the project, and we have about $3.5 left. That, plus the $2 million we got as a donation should be enough to complete the center.”
The donation came from the Orfalea Fund’s Aware and Prepare Initiative, as well as several other organizations in the county. The board accepted the money at its Jan. 5 meeting.
Orfalea Foundation spokeswoman Barbara Andersen said the nonprofit group decided to donate the money after assessing what projects in the county needed financial assistance.
“We decided it would be a great benefit to donate to this cause because the need for a new center is there,” Andersen said.
In addition to the $2 million donation, emergency center costs were also cut when bids by construction companies for the project came in lower than the supervisors expected.
Despite the extra funding, some board members are still wary about the project. Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said current financial conditions make her cautious about supporting the project.
“It’s always good to have options before you go into a big project like this,” Farr said. “I just don’t feel it’s a good idea to dip into those funds with the state of the economy at this time. There are also a lot of ideas coming out of Sacramento right now about cuts to social programs, which could affect children and the elderly. It’s a hard financial time, and I don’t think the funds should be spent on this project at this time.”