Air board may split from county

The county Air Pollution Control District board is considering separating the agency from the county and forming a stand-alone government entity.

The board is studying the pros and cons of declaring itself a special district under state authority. It’s likely to make a decision at its Jan. 27 meeting, according to Larry Allen, air pollution control officer.

“We are kind of a square peg in a round hole,” he said. “We are the only independent agency in the county that is still part of the county.”

Budget considerations are one of the main reasons for breaking the district away, Allen said. Most other air pollution control districts in California have gone their own way, as have this county’s Council of Governments and Local Agency Formation Commission.

The district is funded primarily by fees and gets none of its funding from the county. However, because the air district’s 23 full-time employees are county employees, they are subject to the uncertainties of the county’s budgeting process, Allen said.

“Actions the county takes affect our budget without us having any input,” Allen said.

If the district separates from the county, the process is expected to take six to eight months. The agency’s services and staff would remain the same.