San Bruno residents vent about donation money

January 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Where's the money? People who gave to help victims of the San Bruno pipeline blast put city leaders on the hot seat Wednesday night. People donated $400,000 after September's disaster and that money is still just sitting there.

The residents say it sounds pretty simple to them to find the victims and hand out the money, but city officials say it's not that easy and they want to do it right. So they called a meeting and quickly found out just how upsetting this issue is to residents and the fire victims.

It was clear city officials underestimated how many people care about this issue -- many of them had to go and find their own chair before the meeting started.

City Council members were looking for ideas on how to distribute money to fire victims, but first, residents needed to vent.

"When I went down to give my donation I asked where this money was going to go and they said it was going directly to the fire victims. Four months have gone by, they haven't received anything, I'd like to know why. I mean that's shameful," said San Bruno resident Anne Marie Peponis.

The city of San Bruno has $400,000 in donations it hasn't handed out. Victims like Loretta Masunu say they need it. Masunu says she and her mother, who is still recovering from burns, are about $200,000 in debt.

"And I don't have medical benefits, so I have been paying all the money out and don't have any money coming in," said Masunu.

The two City Council members conducting the meeting tried to explain that there isn't a simple formula on how to give out the money.

"That's not easy. It's not an easy decision. There's all sorts of considerations to do, who's the victims, how far do you go, who gets what, do you give something to everybody?" said San Bruno council member Irene O'Connell.

And as the meeting progressed, that point was proven. Suggestions ranged from a public park to a memorial to hiring a victim's advocate.

"I don't think it's fair to attack the city. I don't always say that I am glad the money hasn't been spent yet because then we'd be hearing all the criticisms of why it was spent wrong," said San Bruno resident Larry Mak.

There are plenty of opinions about this $400,000, but the overwhelming message was figure out a fair way to pass out the money and do so right away. These two council members will make recommendations to the full council at a meeting Tuesday night.