Council deals with money matters | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Council deals with money matters

Susan Wood

The South Lake Tahoe City Council meandered all over the map with money matters Tuesday – ranging from highway improvements to emergency services.

The council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday which allows the city to continue with an emergency services fee. The fee – which should be defined by the council on Sept. 7 – would be imposed on residents for 911 dispatch services. There’s talk the fee would amount to $1.59 a month.

The city estimates $450,000 will be generated annually to run and improve the communications service for public safety.

Councilwoman Kathay Lovell referred to the department’s equipment as “antiquated” in comparison to most operations of this kind.

But a few people took exception to the ordinance – with council candidate Stephen Reinhard opposing the idea, calling the move “taxation without representation.”

He may get help with his opinion from SBC Communications.

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The phone company is suing the city of Stockton to stop its attempt to collect revenue by the same method. It depicts the new fee, approved last month at the City Council meeting, as an unconstitutional tax.

The council also designated $150,000 to help pay for the construction of the Bijou Community Park ballfields off Al Tahoe Boulevard from the capital improvement program budget. The city is hoping that by using synthetic turf instead of grass, its one-time expense will pay off over time.

“We’ll be saving on water, mowing and fertilizing,” Councilman Hal Cole said.

Landscaping all along the major thoroughfare that connects one end of town to the other also received a nod of support. The council gave its commitment to developing a Landscaping and Lighting District to assess and pay for maintenance of landscaping once the Highway 50 curb and gutter project is completed.

This project – supported by many agencies for environmental, recreational and aesthetic reasons – was bumped to 2007. But in order to ensure construction funding – one chunk amounting to $4 million – the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency needed the commitment from the city to handle the upkeep. Otherwise, some believe the project would fail without a commitment.

“The project is too important to overlook,” Lovell said.

Business relating to a proposed bike trail linking Stateline to the “Y” also came before the council.

The panel unanimously agreed to sell off the city-owned parcel amounting to about 15,000 square feet at 3953 Lake Tahoe Blvd. to Holiday Inn Express owner Charlie McDermid. The city wants to use the projected $126,000 from the sale to expand the bike trail beyond Linear Park along Highway 50. A Shell gas station once stood at the site.

Also relative to improvements on that side of town, the City Council – acting as the South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency – approved allocating $390,000 to complete street work at the Marriott-anchored Park Avenue complex. The construction bid turned out $230,000 over budget, but it represents the finishing touches on the $250 million redevelopment project.

Regarding a plan for a complex across the street, the Agency will schedule a special meeting on Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. to review the proposed convention center, referred to as Project 3.

Councilman John Upton, as a subcommittee member, has been meeting with Marriott representatives and property owners affected by the 17-acre project. Upton said he believes Marriott will return with an exclusive negotiating agreement – and therefore the intention to build.

Critics – a few speaking at the council meeting Tuesday – contend the agency can’t afford the project and the idea is outdated. Reinhard proposed a sports arena to better serve the community.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com