A cleanup project along the shoulder of North Jameson Lane in Montecito wrapped up earlier this week as work crews put the finishing touches on a multi-tiered team effort to clear a roadside walking path of broken branches and dried mud and to cover the half-mile stretch with a fresh layer of wood chips. At the federal level, the project — located between Olive Mill and San Ysidro roads — was made possible by U.S. Department of Labor disaster-recovery funds distributed to the California Workforce Development Board and the Employment Development Department after the Thomas Fire and the 1/9 Debris Flow. In turn, the Workforce Development Board of Santa Barbara County received $1.5 million, according to Joyce Aldrich, a project manager with KRA Corporation, a national workforce provider contracted with the county through June 30, 2019. The post-disaster funding “helps individuals get back to work who were directly or indirectly impacted” by the twin natural disasters, Aldrich said, explaining that many residents, from food servers to self-employed landscapers, are still recovering financially. Crew leader Colin Ayers, 25, said he was having trouble finding work before the Thomas Fire, after which the prospects got even worse. Now, he added, he’s putting in the maximum allowable 29 hours weekly and building his résumé.
The first crewmembers — who started at $15.40 per hour before getting bumped to $18, with crew leaders making $19.50 — were voluntarily deployed last July by the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade as the nonprofit spearheaded debris removal and trail repair at the Ennisbrook public open space. The Bucket Brigade has also partnered with the workforce for cleanup projects along county creeks and the public trails just south of the Casa Dorinda retirement community.