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Majority of Council voices clear frontrunner for roads plan
Turlock’s roads program initiative aims to rehabilitate the city’s 428 lane miles of roads, which currently have a pavement condition index of 55 out of 100 (Journal file photo).

Consultants vying for a shot at fixing Turlock’s deteriorating roads presented their plans during a special City Council meeting last Wednesday, though one presentation stood out from the rest to some Council members.

The special meeting was held to hear action plans from four consulting firms, who each responded to the City’s RFP and RFI requests for the roads program initiative. First introduced by Mayor Amy Bublak during her State of the City address in May, the initiative aims to rehabilitate Turlock's 428 lane miles of roads, which currently have a pavement condition index of 55 out of 100, over the course of the next five years by allocating 50% of Measure A funding for the cause.

An estimated total of $5.5 million will go towards road projects annually in addition to other funding sources, increasing the City’s existing road funding by 100%. While the City’s first step in the initiative was to hire a new Roads Program Manager, the newly-hired employee was not present for the special meeting as the position does not begin until Sept. 16. 

City staff received two proposals for the RFP and two responses for the RFI which were presented last Wednesday; The two RFP proposals were from Michael Barker International and a consultant team comprised of Project Finance Advisory Limited, Altus Group and NWC Partners, while the two RFI responses came from Public Facilities Investment Corporation (PFIC) and Noresco.

Michael Barker International and Public Facilities Investment Corporation provided a combined presentation during the meeting, while the Altus Group and Noresco gave their own. 

If selected by the City, the team of MBI and PFIC explained that utilize data from StreetSaver, a pavement management software, to determine and update Turlock streets’ pavement condition index and use that information to prioritize different roads projects. These projects would be planned so as to not disrupt businesses, and the final scope of work would have to be approve by Council. 

Once approved, PCIF will work to ensure Turlock’s pavements needs are met and recommended on Wednesday to the Council that the roads program be financed with the proceeds of tax-exempt lease revenue bonds — popular financing mechanisms for cities when it comes to a variety of public expenses, like hotels, conference centers, parking and roads.

According to the PCIF presentation, the City would lease its public streets to the Turlock Public Financing Authority and the Authority would sublease the streets back to the City for the City’s use, with the City paying rent to the Authority in an amount equal to scheduled debt service payments on the Bonds. Once the Bonds have been fully repaid, the lease between the Authority and City would expire and title to the asset would return to the City.

While the Bonds and therefore the sublease is outstanding, Bondholders would have no right to re-let the streets, interfere with the City’s use and possession of the streets, impose tolls, or foreclose on the streets.

It’s PCIF’s belief that this financing structure would allow the City to make lease payments that are structured to accommodate Turlock’s short- and long-term budgeting needs, including a “flat” payment structure where the payments remain stable for the life of the lease. 

In addition to public input, design and construction, PCIF would also identify ways for the City to leverage Measure A funding by structuring lease revenue bonds where the City streets are used as the leased asset. PCIF would also like to explore options for enhancing lightning in dimly-lit neighborhoods and designing/building transportation projects in Turlock. 

In total, PCIF could have the roads report for City review and approval ready within the next 19 weeks. 

Though there was no voting during the mid-week meeting, Mayor Amy Bublak, Vice Mayor Pam Franco and Council member Rebecka Monez advocated for the MBI/PCIF proposal and response to be placed on the next City Council agenda. Council member Nicole Larson, however, said she would like to hear what staff’s recommendation would be between the tree presentations, including Noresco and Altus Group. Council member Andrew Nosrati was not present for the meeting, but was listening in.

Noresco provided a roads program complemented by a comprehensive plan to not only address pavement management, but utilizing savings to address infrastructure projects like the water treatment facility and geographic information systems. The Altus Group presentation explained how in addition to local funding, consultants would seek out other sources of revenue to fund the program, likely in the form of grants or TIFIA loans, and hopefully from the federal government’s proposed infrastructure bill. 

Monez also stated that she would like to see the Noresco group back at a future City Council budgeting workshop in order to help identify where the City can save.

“We got some really good info in here tonight,” Monez said. 

“It was such a great experience to hear from the grand amount of expertise in the field coming to us and seeing Turlock and the potential that we believe and know Turlock has,” Larson said. “...Our road network is a huge priority, so to have these very well-established firms come present their take on our city is absolutely monumental.

“...I would love to see a recommendation from staff on it and have us be able to make the choice between the two at the dais. I would want staff to choose and us go from there.”

Bublak advocated for placing the MBI/PCIF plan on the next Sept. 14 meeting agenda out of concern for time.

“I think we’re about 35 years overdue on getting the roads fixed,” she said. “We’ve got to start something yesterday.”