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Council supports tax to benefit transportation
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The majority of the Turlock City Council on Tuesday begrudgingly expressed support for the Stanislaus County Council of Government’s plans to put a new, ½ cent sales tax to benefit transportation projects and road improvements on voters’ ballots in November 2012.

 “I would support doing that,” Lazar said. “I don’t necessarily know that I would support it, but I think the public should have the opportunity to voice their concerns and vote in favor or against this measure.”

Efforts to implement such a tax failed in 2006 and 2008.

Vice Mayor Amy Bublak was the only council member to expressly oppose the tax proposal, stating that her constituents would likely not support such a tax increase at this time.

According to Councilwoman Mary Jackson, who serves as Turlock’s StanCOG representative, StanCOG is a bit hesitant to propose a new tax given the current economy. Unemployment numbers would likely need to drop below 2008 figures before StanCOG would consider pursuing the tax, she said.

Turlock council members also lobbied for a greater share of dollars collected through the tax to return to local governments.

In the 2008 proposal, taxes collected were to be distributed equally between local jurisdictions where those taxes were generated and three regional projects. On Tuesday, the council suggested a different distribution of those tax dollars, with as much as 90 percent – and at least 75 percent – returning for local use.

Should county voters approve such a tax, it would not only receive funds from that tax to perform street maintenance and expand roadways, the county would also become eligible for millions in additional state and federal transportation funds, which it currently cannot access as it is not a “self-help” county.

“I don’t like the way this money is doled out,” Jackson said. “I don’t like that we have to self tax because we don’t get state and federal grants, but this is the way that it works and I have no power to change it.”

StanCOG will discuss the tax – deciding whether or not to pursue a ballot measure – at an upcoming meeting.

On Tuesday the Turlock City Council also:

·         Agreed to construct road improvements with $573,600 in Prop 42 and Prop 1B funds. On the docket for improvement are Taylor Road from Berkeley Avenue to the eastern city limit, Quincy Road from Swan Park Drive to the northern city limit, Daubenberger Road north of Canal Drive, and Kilroy Road from Spengler Road to Linwood Road.
The projects will be designed, bidded, and constructed prior to the end of the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
The four road improvements will come instead of repaving Monte Vista Avenue from Geer Road to Dels Lane in advance of the NCAA Track and Field finals, as requested by Bublak at the Jan. 25 council meeting. According to the staff report, there is likely not enough time to repave Monte Vista Avenue prior to May 1. The roadway is, however, scheduled to be repaired in 2012/2013 fiscal year.

·         Declined a request to change the time regular City Council meetings are held, from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m., as suggested by Bublak.
The change in start times was opposed because it may have reduced the public’s access to participate in council meetings, given other work and family commitments.
The council will, however, consider a future change to prevent meetings from running past a certain time of night; a January meeting did not conclude until past 11 p.m. Details regarding the meeting time limit will be discussed at a future meeting.

·         Approved a $32,000 loan from the Redevelopment Agency Affordable Housing Development Fund to Habitat for Humanity to rehabilitate a home located at 350 Minerva.

·         Received an update on the Turlock Partnership Incentives Program, which offers new businesses a discount on city fees.
A draft brochure on the program has been created, but the final program launch awaits review from outside legal counsel. State Proposition 26 prevents cities from establishing some new fees without voter input; by offering a temporary fee break, the city wants to ensure it does not trigger Prop 26 provisions when resuming the normal fee schedule.

·         Awarded a bid for $10,850 with Modesto Sand and Gravel to demolish the Pizza Hut located at 201 W. Olive Ave. The Pizza Hut is the final remaining building on the parcel of land set to become the Public Safety Facility.

·         Authorized hiring to replace three recently vacated positions within the Municipal Services Utilities Division, either through in-house recruitment or outside recruitment if necessary.
The vacancies were created by one resignation and two retirements. Due to a growth in water and sewer infrastructure, current staffing levels cannot properly maintain the systems, the staff report said.
The positions will be funded with existing Enterprise Funds, and will not use General Fund dollars. Additionally, all three positions will be entry level, reclassified from higher-level, more costly posts.

·         Directed the Planning Commission to consider renaming Turlock’s industrial park, the Westside Industrial Specific Plan, and to present recommendations to the council.

·         Agreed to amend Turlock fire codes to meet current International Fire Codes for 2010. The new code is largely the same as Turlock’s standing fire code, save for a change in the firework vendor application process and solar panel installation standards for large businesses.
The revised codes will return on Feb. 22 for final council approval.

·         Heard a briefing on California State University, Stanislaus from Pamela Contreras, vice president external of Associated Students, Inc. Contreras notified the council of an upcoming free show of the Harlem Wizards basketball team at CSU Stanislaus on Feb. 16, and provided information related to the CSU Board of Trustee’s search for a new, student trustee.

·         Received a briefing on the efforts of newly-seated State Senator Anthony Cannella (R – Ceres) from local representative Chris Tyler.

·         Heard from Turlocker Donald Jeffreys, who provided the council with pocket versions of the U.S. Constitution.