Cash intended for business district may pay for crosswalk |

Cash intended for business district may pay for crosswalk

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ A motorist illegally speeds past a pair of skiers at the gondola crosswalk.

Money the city pledged to fund tourism promotion might be split in three different directions by the time the South Lake Tahoe City Council meets next month.

The city wants to nail down where to allocate the $49,000 left over from the disbanding of the Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District. The city kicked in $70,000 for the failed effort, but $21,000 was consumed in administrative costs. Presumably, the item will be on the agenda for the March 7 meeting.

Like many things, there seems to be more ideas than money to go around. Three alternatives include marketing its Parks and Recreation Department, a special event earmark for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and installing a pedestrian-activated traffic signal at the Heavenly Village crosswalk near Stateline. Right now, a constantly blinking light signals the potential for walkers – but apparently that’s not enough.

Many people consider the Highway 50 crosswalk dangerous. Near misses are common, and a Heavenly Mountain Resort employee was hit by a vehicle in July. Kathy Martineau, who has racked up numerous medical bills from the accident, has made it her mission to have a safer traffic signal installed across the major thoroughfare.

She limped to the podium two weeks ago to ask the city to spend the money on the traffic upgrade, but the matter was continued to find the necessary funding.

“Just put the light up,” Martineau yelled out as she left the meeting.

Since then, Public Works Director John Greenhut has estimated the signal will cost $245,000. Caltrans has committed $166,000 to the project, but that leaves a $79,000 shortfall. As of Tuesday, Greenhut was still trying to identify some public safety grants to offset the funding gap. And Redevelopment Manager Gene Palazzo said the Park Avenue Development partners was asked about helping with funding, but no decision was made.

Plans are in the works for a pedestrian overpass or underpass in the area through a proposed convention center project (currently being developed), but South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association President Jerry Bindel reminded the council that may take three years to be installed.

“The light is by far the most important thing we do,” Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said.

Pat Ronan, who runs the Lakeshore Lodge, suggested otherwise. He wants the city to turn over the money to the LTVA because tourism promotion was the original intent of the business district.

“That’s what (the money) was originally designed for,” said Ronan, who’s a board member of the LTVA and Lodging Association.

“Not having people killed is the best marketing you can get,” Councilman Mike Weber responded.

Ideally, the council wants to support all three options – including a request by Recreation Superintendent Gary Moore for $24,000 to buy media advertising to promote city outlets like the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena in areas such as the Carson Valley and North Lake Tahoe.

Councilman John Upton suggested the LTVA and Parks and Recreation get together to share ideas.

And Councilman Ted Long would like to see “the resurrection of special-event funding.”

Before its board voted to disband, the business district was aimed at offsetting diminishing local government marketing subsidies through a citywide fee.

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