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City Of Chico Doesn’t Quantify Cost Of Homeless Camp Removal

Richard Walker
Flickr Creative Commons

Police officers, public works employees and other city officials all worked to remove people from a tent encampment near One-Mile Recreation Area at lower Bidwell Park on Jan. 12.


It turns out, the city did not calculate the total monetary cost of that work.


The revelation came after NSPR submitted a public records request to the city and received a single document in return. The document showed one department – Public Works – did account for the labor and equipment it used to clean up the encampment. That work totaled about $7,000.


Erik Gustafson, the public works director for operations and maintenance, told NSPR that figure only captures his department. He said the Police Department’s Target Team, the city’s homeless solutions coordinator and the City Manager’s Office also contributed work.


“If you’re looking for exact – total citywide – costs, you would probably want to add the Target Team costs,” Gustafson said. “I believe they had three officers – a sergeant and two officers – on scene.” 


Police Chief Matt Madden told NSPR he wouldn’t know how to calculate a rate for the work his officers conducted toward the camp removal effort. And City Manager Mark Orme said his salary isn’t broken into specific areas of work.


He said the same is true for the city’s homeless solutions coordinator. The city manager added that he wouldn’t venture a guess on the total citywide cost of the camp removal.


The uncertainty comes as the city may be preparing to remove a second large encampment at a public space known as the triangle, which is located between Pine and Cypress streets.


Gustafson, the public works director, said his department costs to remove that encampment would be similar to the $7,000 for the lower Bidwell Park removal.


“That particular area, it’s concentrated and consolidated on that triangle – a piece, if you will – between Pine and Cypress,” Gustafson said. “We probably won’t need as many staff, so I predict it being slightly less but these will be a good comparable on public works – operations and maintenance – costs that it would take to clean that particular area up.”


Gustafson said the funds – in part – come from a pot of money previously allocated to pursue solutions to homelessness.