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Measure L for Turlock – bait & switch?
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The City Council held a special Council meeting on Sept. 26, with the sole topic being Turlock’s declining condition of our local roads.  In 2014 the residents of Turlock had an opportunity to pass Measure B, which would have generated approximately $6 million per year dedicated to fixing our local streets.  Unfortunately, this Measure fell short of the two-thirds (67%) voter approval based on the promise that the County supported Measure L being placed on the 2016 ballot was a better solution.  

Fast forward to today.  The first Measure L project (West Main) is finally nearing completion with the costs being almost 4 times the original $1.6 million Measure L estimate.  As a result, it has taken all of the first two years of the total $3.2 million annual maintenance funds from Measure L, leaving no funds for the remaining residential street maintenance projects identified.  The Measure L funding for local street maintenance over the 25-year life of Measure L is projected to be $73 million or approximately 50% of total sales tax funds being collected.

It was reported Thursday that Turlock street conditions have continued to decline and estimated deferred street maintenance costs have increased to $135 million or double the estimate 6 years ago.  There have not been any General Fund dollars available for street maintenance for the past 40 years and there are no prospects for this to change in the immediate future.  The numbers simply do not add up with needed road maintenance expenditures far exceeding expected revenues.

The city staff proposal of re-allocating the limited Measure L funds does nothing to answer the real question residents are asking “When will my street be fixed?”  As part of the original Measure L that voters approved, a detailed 25-page schedule identifying individual residential street repair projects and the year to be completed was developed.  Two years into the plan, only one project is nearing completion and the Staff proposal is to throw out this plan “sold” to voters and replace it with annual determination of which roads are to be fixed.  It appears to be a classic “bait & switch” perpetrated on the voters of Turlock.

It is time for our elected officials to develop a reliable funding source for local street maintenance for the entire city.  It will not be easy or politically pleasant, but it will be the right thing to do.  The residents must realize that we cannot expect the feds, state or county to be responsible for maintaining one of our most valuable assets – our Turlock streets.

 — Jim L. Theis