CITY MIA ON ATHER­TON GAP?

Long promised road pro­ject by city is still that — a prom­ise

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT

Man­teca’s in­abil­ity to con­struct 4,100 feet of Ather­ton Drive that was once fully funded five years ago is try­ing the pa­tience of at least one Man­teca City Coun­cil mem­ber.

The pub­lic has been promised on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions that the miss­ing sec­tion be­tween Spar­rowhawk Drive east of Air­port Way and Union Road would be built to take pres­sure off Wood­ward Av­enue. The lat­est was in June when Coun­cil­woman Debby Moor­head ex­pressed

displeasure that work on Ather­ton Drive’s miss­ing link had stalled. The coun­cil con­curred, prompt­ing staff to say they’d re­turn with a fund­ing so­lu­tion at a July meet­ing. The staff’s lat­est self-im­posed dead­line passed two months ago.

“At the mo­ment I’m will­ing to give them the ben­e­fit of the doubt,” Coun­cil­man Richard Sil­ver­man said of staff.

Sil­ver­man con­ceded the past year has been chal­leng­ing for staff when the as­sis­tant pub­lic works di­rec­tor Greg Show­er­man was tapped to be the deputy city man­ager and then the act­ing city man­ager.

Now de­parted City Man­ager Elena Reyes in pick­ing Show­er­man as her deputy, had taken staff from the de­part­ment ar­guably hit with the largest work­load from growth. No move was made in Au­gust of 2016 to fill Show­er­man’s pub­lic works post in a bid to “save money.” When he was called on by the coun­cil to serve as act­ing city man­ager three months later, the pub­lic works po­si­tion was still va­cant. The coun­cil didn’t act to re­place the pub­lic works po­si­tion in the fol­low­ing months on the as­sump­tion Show­er­man would want to re­turn to his pre­vi­ous post. Show­er­man ended the city’s self-im­posed Don­ny­brook in March when he was ap­pointed to the com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor’s job. Un­til the new city man­ager was in place — Tim Og­den who was hired two months ago — there was an act­ing di­rec­tor for com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment while Show­er­man con­tin­ued his role as act­ing city man­ager.

Crit­i­cal pub­lic works post was kept va­cant

for al­most a year Be­cause of the de­ci­sion to ap­point Show­er­man as com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor, the city started look­ing for some­one to fill his pre­vi­ous po­si­tion in pub­lic works. It was fi­nally filled re­cently af­ter be­ing left va­cant for al­most a year.

Sil­ver­man said if staff is wait­ing un­til af­ter the new trans­porta­tion fees are in place; he wants to see move­ment sooner than later af­ter the fees are adopted. Those fees — orig­i­nally di­rected by the coun­cil to be pur­sued in 2009 — have been a sore point with Mayor Steve DeBrum who noted with each pass­ing month the city has been “leav­ing money on the ta­ble” by un­der col­lect­ing fees that can be jus­ti­fi­ably charged to growth.

The so­lu­tion for fund­ing ad­vanced in June was to make a “loan” to the Ather­ton pro­ject from re­serve ac­counts that would be paid back as de­vel­op­ment oc­curs. All of the money in­volved — that al­ready col­lected and fu­ture col­lec­tions — is com­ing from the de­vel­op­ment com­mu­nity.

Man­teca is sit­ting on $25.4 mil­lion in var­i­ous gen­eral fund re­serves. While it is ear­marked for var­i­ous pur­poses, some of it — $4.3 mil­lion in bonus bucks, $4.6 for eco­nomic re­vi­tal­iza­tion, and other re­serves that don’t have a spe­cific pro­ject in place mov­ing for­ward to fi­nance or weren’t cre­ated to cover cash flow, emer­gency, and eco­nomic down­turn — could be tapped for in­ter-fund loans.

Such a loan could marry money for roads col­lected from growth through the Pub­lic Fa­cil­i­ties Im­ple­men­ta­tion Plan to pro­vide the $5 mil­lion to build the gap. Of that amount, $2 mil­lion was al­ready des­ig­nated to come from the PFIP funds to ini­tially build just two lanes for now. When de­vel­op­ers pro­ceed with projects fronting the road they’d con­struct the re­main­ing lanes and other im­prove­ments.

In re­al­ity the en­tire $5 mil­lion tab is be­ing picked up by de­vel­op­ers as they pay the PFIP fees as well. The $5 mil­lion tab rep­re­sents build­ing all im­prove­ments in­clud­ing four lanes ini­tially in­stead of two lanes as had been pre­vi­ously sug­gested

When the pri­vate sec­tor projects move for­ward, they would pay the city for the ad­di­tional lanes that would al­low Ather­ton Drive to be built all at one time in­stead of in phases. The city then would use that money to pay back the loan from the ap­pro­pri­ate re­serve ac­count.

Iron­i­cally, one of the rea­sons why the roads funds in the PFIP doesn’t have more money cur­rently for projects is be­cause the city bor­rowed money from that ac­count to help pay for sewer and wa­ter re­lated projects re­quired to ac­com­mo­date growth as de­vel­op­ment oc­curs and fees are paid for wa­ter and sewer con­nec­tions, the PFIP road loans to other ac­counts is be­ing re­paid.

Neg­a­tive dec­la­ra­tion to move the gap pro­ject for­ward

was ap­proved in 2013 The gap fund­ing had the $2.6 mil­lion needed set aside from growth fees in the 2013- 14 city bud­get. There were also agree­ments with ad­join­ing prop­erty own­ers to re­im­burse the city for part of the work when they de­vel­oper their com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial projects.

A de­sire to make sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to Mof­fat Boule­vard and Austin Road as well as up­grade ramps at the Austin Road and High­way 99 interchange to get the balling rolling on the em­ploy­ment cen­ter com­po­nent of the Austin Road Busi­ness Park, prompted the city a year later to shift the Ather­ton Drive gap fund­ing to that en­deavor.

When that pro­ject fell through due to de­lays at city hall on a de­vel­op­ment agree­ment, the game plan an­nounced to the pub­lic was the money would be re­stored to the Ather­ton Drive gap pro­ject af­ter out­stand­ing bills on pre­lim­i­nary en­gi­neer­ing work for the Mof­fat/Austin im­prove­ments were paid af­ter the city stopped work on the pro­ject.

The City Coun­cil in April 2013 ap­proved the neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact doc­u­ment for the ex­ten­sion of Ather­ton Drive cov­er­ing 4,100 feet from Union Road to a point just east of Spar­rowhawk Drive.

City staff at that time noted once the seg­ment be­tween Union Road and Air­port Way was com­pleted some­time in early 2014, pres­sure would be taken off Wood­ward Av­enue when af­ter­noon com­mute traf­fic comes to a stand­still on the 120 By­pass. That’s be­cause Ather­ton Drive will be com­pleted from Air­port Way to Wood­ward Av­enue just east of Mof­fat Boule­vard near the Austin Road ramps to High­way 99.

HIME ROMERO/ The Bul­letin

The Ather­ton Drive gap is from Union Road (shown) to Spar­rowhawk Drive east of Air­port Way.

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