Travis County accepted thousands of dollars in federal grants to reimburse area first responders who helped fight the Pedernales and Steiner Ranch wildfires in September 2011.
Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously accepted two fire mitigation assistance grants totaling $511,368.08 from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of its May 28 consent agenda.
The Sept. 4, 2011, Pedernales and Steiner Ranch wildfires were declared disasters by Gov. Rick Perry soon after they occurred. This enabled Travis County to apply for reimbursements up to 75 percent of costs resulting from the fires, according to county documents. Salary expenses do not qualify for reimbursement.
Travis County applied for the two grants on behalf of numerous area first-responder organizations and emergency services districts.
FEMA initially denied a large number of the county's expenses after claiming that the Interlocal Cooperation Act that was in place was actually a Mutual Aid Agreement and did not address reimbursement, county documents stated.
Travis County Emergency Management Coordinator Pete Baldwin said the Interlocal Cooperation Act only addresses planning, not mutual aid. A Travis County attorney sent an appeal letter through the state explaining the county's position. FEMA reviewed the information and agreed with the county.
FEMA paid Travis County 75 percent of the eligible expenses that each department submitted.
"We're glad to have been able to appeal the original decision so we could get some funds back to the local fire departments who found these fires over several days," Baldwin said.
The grant for the Pedernales fire totals $306,989.55 and will be distributed to the following groups:
1. Austin Fire Department—$93,756.69
2. Emergency Services District No. 8, Pedernales Fire Department—$52,099.49
3. North Hays County Sheriff's Office—$26,050.58
4. Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services—$23,557.70
5. ESD No. 9, Westlake Fire Department—$18,179.51
6. ESD No. 3, Oak Hill Fire Department—$17,718.41
7. South Hays Fire Department—$14,648.86
8. ESD. No. 4, Fire Control—$8,254.76
9. ESD No. 6, Lake Travis Fire Rescue—$7,950.73
10. Travis County Sheriff's Office—$7,572.62
11. ESD No. 14, Volente Fire Department—$7,109.96
12. Hays County—$6,105.14
13. Marble Falls—$5,787.86
14. ESD No. 1, North Lake Travis—$5,580.83
15. Hoover Valley—$4,719
16. ESD No. 10, CE-Bar Fire Department—$4,106.34
17. Hays County Sheriff's Office—$2,700.64
18. Austin Police Department—$1,180.46
Note: the sum of all departments' reimbursements is $307,079.58, which is $90.03 more than the grant. The grant amount refers to 75 percent of the total approved expenses. Seventy five percent of $409,319.40 equals $306,989.55.
Baldwin said the discrepancy may have come from individual department line items that were not approved in the final grant total.
Steiner Ranch fire
The grant for the Steiner Ranch Fire totals $204,378.53 and will be distributed to the following groups:
1. ESD No. 6, Lake Travis Fire Rescue—$99,306.86
2. Austin Fire Department—$47,896.36
3. Austin Travis County Emergency Medical Services—$20,584.20
4. Travis County Sheriff's Office—$10,908.61
5. Austin Energy—$6,144.65
6. Austin Water—$5,623.35
7. ESD No. 1, North Lake Travis—$3,201.91
8. ESD No. 14, Volente Fire Department—$2,916.79
9. City of Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management—$2,178.67
10. Austin Police Department—$1,968.65
11. ESD No. 3, Oak Hill Fire Department—$1,788.59
12. North Hays Fire Department—$1,050
13. ESD No. 10, Ce-Bar Fire Department—$810
(Note: The sum of the department totals is 11 cents more than the grant total.)