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City Council to consider a full-time consultant

Susan Wood

Money for public improvements will lead an assortment of agenda items before the South Lake Tahoe City Council today.

The city will consider hiring a consultant at a cost of $2,250 a month to find government grant money for infrastructure upgrades such as Highway 50 improvements. If approved, the Houston Group of Sacramento will get a list from the city in a six-month trial.

City Manager Dave Jinkens suggested Highway 50 may be the ideal testing ground to figure out how to find money to fund improvements.

The proposed price tag of the curb-and-gutter project has nearly quadrupled in the last decade from the initial $12 million. The project – a consortium of Lake Tahoe Basin agencies have long pursued it – is now estimated to cost $45 million. In addition to curbs and gutters, the project would include landscaping, lighting, bike trails and sidewalks between the “Y” and Ski Run Boulevard. From there, the city must determine how to finance the estimated $350,000 annual maintenance costs.

Talk of a Highway 50 business improvement district to cover the maintenance has been mentioned, but nothing has been formalized.

In winter, pedestrians slip and slide as they beat a path between businesses along the major thoroughfare through town. Sometimes the route is treacherous. In the last five years, 17 pedestrian-related accidents have been reported to the city police department, according to Lt. Terry Daniels.

The Houston Group comes with a lengthy client list, including the Tahoe City Public Utility District. Even so, Jinkens said Monday he would understand if there’s criticism surrounding the hiring of yet another consultant. Unlike most local governments, the city has no grant researcher or writer on staff.

“That’s their expertise. We’re not experts in everything. I think making staff experts in everything is arrogant and could get us into trouble,” he said.

In other business, the council may:

— Proceed with a $4 million remodeling job at the Sierra Garden Apartments on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, one in four city redevelopment housing projects partly funded through federal grants administered by the state. The 76-unit, low-income housing complex will receive new flooring, cabinetry, doors and windows. To meet the low-income mandate, the average two-person household must annually make under $41,000. One bedroom rentals range from $601 to $761, and the two-bedroom units rent between $721 and $916, according to housing rehabilitation specialist Suzanne Gottier of Laurin & Associates. The restrictions would be renewed annually.

— Approve a request for proposals to fund backup snow removal services during severe storms such as those that hit the basin over the New Year’s holiday. No budget estimate has been given by Public Works.

— Award a contract to one of three bidders for Public Works to oversee the Lake Tahoe Airport remodeling project. The overall job has been estimated to run about $525,000 to move the Council Chambers and city administrative staff to the aviation facility.

— Make plans to refund the money collected citywide from the Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District. This includes the $70,000 the city allocated to fund tourism efforts in the first year. The city is in the process of disbanding the controversial business district upon the recommendation of its 11-member board, while the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association decided last week to hire a consultant to form its own district.

— Decide to chip in $50,000 for consultants formulating the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Pathway 2007 regional plan. North and South shore governments are expected to fork over a combined $200,000 in consultant fees for the planning process, TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said.


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