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CITY MIA ON ATHERTON GAP?

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

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CITY MIA ON ATHERTON GAP?

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

HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin/


POSTED September 14, 2017 1:33 a.m.

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.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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