highway 17 sign rain storm
A sign on Highway 17 warns drivers of hazardous conditions. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

Los Gatos Council held a virtual special meeting that lasted only about 15 minutes on Jan. 10 to ratify a state of emergency declared Jan. 4 by Town Manager Laurel Prevetti.

“This was predicated not only on the weather event—the flooding, downed trees, along with the weather event—but it also coincided with the State and the County both issuing emergency proclamations on that same day,” said Assistant Town Manager Arn Andrews. “Since then, the weather has not subsided—nor its effect. And also on January 8, the Biden Administration directed FEMA to make this a federal case and assign a case number for California.”

Los Gatos will be trying to get reimbursed by the federal government of damages, he added.

Councilmember Rob Moore emphasized that he’s supportive of the emergency declaration.

“Are we anticipating the need to procure additional resources, personnel, that sort of thing?” he asked. “I know part of the reason for this is for the Town to be able to act quickly, but are there any particular things that we’re anticipating?”

Andrews replied to say Los Gatos would be spending more on tree clean-up contractors.

“We do have existing contracts, but this is probably above and beyond what was anticipated, budgetarily,” he said. “I also know that, in certain instances, overtime might be an item that can be reimbursable. We have been experiencing significant overtime, both in the public safety and the public works (departments)…In addition we do know that there’s private property damage.”

Even though this land doesn’t belong to the Town, Los Gatos can still factor this into its initial damage assessment for a FEMA claim, he noted.

“And there could be liability associated with the Town—associated with some of that private property damage,” he said. “This is not a carte blanche. FEMA actually only gives procurement outside of normal channels, I’m gonna say roughly (over) a 72-hour period. And then they want all entities to quickly revert back to their normal processes of procedures.”

So far, Los Gatos hasn’t had to take too many extraordinary measures, though.

“We haven’t really had to go outside of our normal process and procedures,” Andrews said. “We’re using vendors that were already vetted through either an RFP process or a sole-source process. And so, I don’t anticipate anything unusual other than we probably will expend funds above and beyond what we anticipated.”

Prevetti commended Town Staff for their winter season preparations.

“Those efforts are definitely paying off,” she said. “And we’re hoping to have minimal damage in our town.”

But she noted a series of storms still lay ahead.

“There’s a lot of unknowns, in terms of what the final impact will be to our community,” she said. “But having this proclamation and the resolution by the council will position the Town to make sure that we can flexibly obtain the resources that we need as this event continues to unfold.”

Council will receive a report within 60 days about the state of emergency, Andrews said.

Vice Mayor Mary Badame also lauded Town staff.

“This is an emergency that I haven’t seen in many, many years, that Los Gatos has had to experience,” she said. “I thank all the staff, all the Town crew everywhere within our town for stepping up. I know in my own business there’s a lot of downed trees. There’s a lot of property damage to cars with trees that have toppled on top of the cars. People without power. I just got notified right before the meeting started that power came back (on) within my own neighborhood, which is right off Alberto Way. And hopefully on North Santa Cruz Ave., where I conduct business—I’m now remotely in San Jose at somebody else’s office.”

She made the motion to affirm the emergency proclamation, with Moore seconding it.

Mayor Maria Ristow said she took refuge at the library earlier that day.

“The Town Manager has taken a very strong leadership role here,” she said. “I appreciate the way that you and your entire team have worked together here.

“We are in very good hands.”

Council ratified the declaration unanimously.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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