As the Town Manager for the past 6 months, I have a front-row seat to view the hard work of recovery taking place every day within the Town. Much has been accomplished these past 5 years since the Camp Fire. The dedication to recovery by the Town Council and staff is getting results, and much is left to do in the coming years. As you already know and I am learning, this is a journey.
In 2023, our community achieved significant milestones in recovery and has made great progress in fulfilling projects outlined in the Long-Term Recovery Plan. As the Town looks forward to this coming year, we can expect the start and continuation of additional Long-Term Recovery Projects, including:
Early Warning Sirens (EWS)
As the top Tier 1 priority requested by town residents, this multi-layered/redundant emergency notification system will improve the existing voluntary notification system and create an audible/alarm notification system for residents and visitors in the Town of Paradise.
Monthly testing began July 2023, and residents have actively shared valuable feedback, alerting town staff of the various defects and deviations. Currently, only one tower on Rocky Lane awaits construction of its new foundation and out of the 21 towers, 10 have been connected successfully to alternating current (AC) power. All eight traffic cameras have been installed and will soon be operational. These traffic cameras will enhance traffic monitoring capabilities during an evacuation. The estimated completion of the EWS system is spring of this year.
Paradise Paving Plan
After securing funding to rehabilitate all publicly owned roadways damaged by the Camp Fire, the Town of Paradise has completed 15% of the Paradise Paving Plan, sequenced behind the undergrounding of utilities and water infrastructure repairs.
Moving forward this year, the Town plans on repaving 20 to 30 miles of public roads. All public roads will be repaved by 2026. Please remain patient as the roadwork continues throughout the community for the next two years.
In 2020, the Town contracted with HDR, an engineering consulting firm, to prepare an updated assessment of project options; 2 years later, the Town Council approved and certified a Programmatic Environmental Impact Report. Between October and December 2023, the Town requested proposals from design and construction teams that are qualified to deliver the project. Town staff evaluated 7 proposals and selected Mountain Cascade Inc and Carollo Engineers. The proposed contract and contractor selection will be brought to Council at the February 13th Town Council meeting. Construction is projected to begin in 2026.
Tree Removal Program
A Tier 1 priority, the hazard tree assessment Phase 1 has been completed with nearly 11,000 standing dead trees identified, tagged, and catalogued for review by FEMA/Cal OES. Phase 2 continues to be in Federal Environmental Review. In August 2023, the Town was awarded a grant from CALFIRE to support the removal of hazardous trees in the community. This grant will fully cover the cost of tree removal for all property owners who enrolled in the program in 2022 and had their properties assessed for eligible trees. The Town continues to work with Cal OES and FEMA weekly and expects them to complete this review in early 2024.
Residential Ignition Resistant Improvement Program
The Residential Ignition Resistant Improvement Program (R.I.R.I.P) is progressing, and property owners have been notified through letters of their assessment costs from the Town. However, we are still waiting for FEMA approval before renovations can begin and anticipated funding for home improvements is expected to be available to enrolled residents this upcoming spring/summer 2024.
As we look forward to continuing new projects in our recovery efforts, it is important to reflect on the great achievements we’ve made as well. With a total of 2,240 certificates of occupancy issued for single-family residences and 502 for multi-family homes, our population has reached approximately 10,000 people. Our efforts towards undergrounding utilities have seen substantial progress, with PG&E reaching 70%, Comcast at 48%, Water at 25% for laterals, and Telecommunications at 38%. We’ve completed the Downtown “Almond Street/Gap Closure Project and enriched the visual landscape of the Town by removing or addressing almost every commercial sign. These accomplishments stand as testament to our collective dedication and progress as a town and I am grateful to be a part of the recovery efforts.
We are constantly assessing our progress and looking for additional ways to move recovery forward. Please feel free to share your thoughts with us by contacting Recovery and Economic Development Director Colette Curtis at firstname.lastname@example.org.