State offers funding for Highway 50 improvements |

State offers funding for Highway 50 improvements

Deemed one of the highest priorities of the city, the Highway 50 project got a boost in funding support from Caltrans to start a section of the first phase by May 2008.

The state agency, along with city Public Works Director John Greenhut, provided a report Tuesday to the South Lake Tahoe City Council that identified $22.2 million in federal and state transportation funds to install curbs, gutters, storm drains and a 6-foot-wide Class 2 bike lane alongside the thoroughfare between Trout Creek and Lakeview Avenue. The section is due for completion in November 2009.

The estimated $45 million project has the buy-in from a number of agencies and organizations in town. Overall, the community has long requested movement in the project that spans from the “Y” to Ski Run Boulevard. Caltrans also came armed to the meeting with a timeline. The second phase is expected to start in May 2010 and be completed by November 2011.

Before the meeting, only $12 million in funding had been found.

“We have a great deal of community pressure to this get done,” Councilman John Upton said.

The project has been identified of critical importance because of the highway’s environmental impact. Oily sludge and slime pour out of the storm drains into the lake at El Dorado Beach, one of the hotbeds for tourism activity in the summer.

City Manager Dave Jinkens was pleased Caltrans had “saved the project” in its funding exploration.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask to fulfill the promise given to this community,” he told the council.

The only hitches are the city and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency would have to come up with the money to fund landscaping and sidewalks. To that, David Kelly of the Tahoe Coordinating Council for the Disabled asked Caltrans if it had ever been sued for failure to install sidewalks. A Caltrans representative couldn’t say.

Councilman Ted Long piped in that he would “even forego landscaping to have sidewalks” to give pedestrians a “safe place to walk.” The city must come up with $1 million for the project.

At one point, the city had talked about forming a business improvement district to pay for landscaping maintenance. City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo said she hadn’t heard anything recently.

In other business, the council decided to:

— Direct the city manager to write a letter to Lahontan Water Board asking for an extension to devise an overall stormwater treatment plan.

— Serve as a financing conduit for Barton Memorial Hospital without indemnifying the city in order for the health care system to make improvements.

— Receive and file an audit from Cory Biggs of Maze & Associates of Walnut Creek for the city’s fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2005. In summary, Biggs told the council the city is in much better shape with its funding stability and accountability than the operation in 2003, the first year for which he conducted an audit.

According to the report, 19 percent of the $49.1 million in revenues is comprised of property taxes – considered one of the strongest funding sources. He indicated the most promising story out of the $22.9 million general fund has turned out to be the $7.9 million in unreserved, undesignated funds for emergencies. The reserves consist of 28 percent of operating expenses equaling 100 days of cash to the city.

However, Biggs warned the city that it may lose money in issues ranging from rising health care costs to emerging street repairs.

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