Bike trails under audit scrutiny |

Bike trails under audit scrutiny

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / City Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss explains part of where the Measure S money goes for bike trail maintenance. The El Dorado County Auditor's office is undergoing an audit, which has listed $38,000 for maintenance costs in the last few years.

Measure S funds have paid out $86,000 to South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County to maintain bike trails, one of several line items under scrutiny by the county auditor’s office.

The county is conducting an audit to be wrapped up in two weeks that will explain in detail what was paid out where for the $8.7 million collected from taxpayers over the last six years. A Measure S joint powers agreement, or JPA, led by the city, county and Tahoe Paradise Park Improvement District has managed $386,000 in operations and maintenance expenses since it formed when the recreation initiative passed in 2000.

The $38,000 received by the city is earmarked for three trail connections equaling 2.8 miles of path. These include a half mile built next to the athletic field, another half mile at the 15th Street bridge off Highway 89 and 2 miles running alongside Ski Run Boulevard.

But the Ski Run Business Improvement District formed by property owners on the major cross-town thoroughfare ended up paying for the $10,000 annual maintenance expenses from 2003 to 2005.

“We got to question it and found no one (with the BID) knew anything about it. The JPA was supposed to be paying it because that’s part of the agreement,” said Jerry Birdwell, who co-owns the Black Bear Inn on Ski Run.

“Some of it is a cooperative agreement,” Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss said.

Weiss, while strolling the grounds of the athletic field, said the citizens would be surprised by how much maintenance costs. For example, the bike trail is swept and the lines are painted. He even pointed out tubular barriers installed on the bike trail that prevent motorists from entering the trail.

“The real cost to maintain a bike trail is the deferred maintenance,” said Mayor Hal Cole, who serves on the JPA board with Michael Clark with the Tahoe Paradise Park and now El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago.

And some of the money has been earmarked for deferred maintenance years from now. The city will have to repave at some point, and for that, the city will use its $2,000-a-year allocation for that one trail. It’s unclear how much money sits in a reserve account for the Ski Run bike trail.

South Lake Tahoe City Councilman John Upton, who is working as a JPA staff person for a fee, said he’s unsure how much money sits in that account and directed the question to Weiss. He, in turn, has made the inquiry to city Finance Director Christine Vuletich. A phone call to Vuletich was unreturned.

The athletic field built a year ago off Al Tahoe Boulevard has $16,000 of carry-over from the $50,000 allocated for maintenance there – with the majority of these costs consisting of staff time, Weiss said.

The city parks crew, which often comprised a handful of staff, will pick up trash there daily. Dumping fees at South Tahoe Refuse cost the city $12 a yard. The crew sweeps twice a year. In addition, the goal posts at the multi-purpose field will need painting and parking lot will require resurfacing.

Even the $16,000 won’t be enough to build the snack shack and restrooms at the popular site, and building a second field seems out of the question in the near future. Cole is working on getting donated materials and labor to build them to follow through with promises to the taxpayers. Some have expressed criticism over the city building one field instead of four as indicated in the original resolution.

Still, Jonathan Hirschfield was out Thursday enjoying the existing field laced with synthetic turf. He runs five laps during his cardio workout at the Lake Tahoe Community College gym.

“I like this because there’s no impact,” he said, bouncing on the turf.

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