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PG&E work delays Louise-McKinley widening indefinitely
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LATHROP – The ball is in the Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s court as far as the project to widen Louise Avenue from Fifth Street to the railroad tracks west of the Manteca Unified School District offices where Lathrop’s city limits end is concerned.

The $2.8 million widening of this stretch of Louise Avenue in Lathrop, plus improvements at the McKinley Avenue intersection, is “essentially on hold right now because of PG&E. PG&E needs to relocate the transmission lines, so we’re waiting on that,” Public Works Director Steve Salvatore told the  City Council at last week’s special meeting.

One of the city’s last actions before the project can go any further is being considered by the council at their regular meeting at 7 o’clock tonight in the City Hall’s Council Chambers. That action involves the settlement agreement between the city and Raymond and Annette Moreno, the couple who live in the rental house on the northeast corner of Louise and McKinley avenues.

In keeping with state and federal laws, and as part of the purchase and sale agreement between the city and Melvin E. and Joan Kauffman of Manteca who own the rental house, the affected tenants who are being displaced by this project have to be assisted financially by the city. This relocation assistance is to the tune of $10,000 which will be paid in two installments.

The terms of this settlement agreement will be considered by the council tonight. According to the report submitted by city staff to council, the Morenos have agreed to vacate the rental property on or before March 1, 2010. Under the provisions of the same agreement, the monthly rent of $650 that the Morenos have been paying the Kauffmans will be deducted from the second installment of their relocation benefits if they remain at the property from the time of escrow to March 1, 2010.

The total cost for the right-of-way acquisitions, tenant relocation and construction costs involved in the widening of the Louise-McKinley intersection is $300,000 which was approved by the council on Jan. 20, 2009.

As part of the widening of the Louise-McKinley intersections, the corner house will have to be torn down. The only other house affected by the widening project, located just to the east of the corner house which is also owned by the Kauffmans, was not scheduled for demolition in the original plans. However, the Kauffmans successfully argued with the city, through the city’s negotiator, that since the widening project will essentially leave this rental property un-rentable because of the widened road going as close as eight feet to the home’s front door, the city should also tear this structure down at the city’s expense. The city agreed to the Kauffmans’ demand resulting in a settlement of about $160,000 for both properties. Escrow on this settlement agreement was finalized the end of last week.

All in all, the city needed to acquire about a third of an acre of land plus the corner house for the expansion of the Louise-McKinley intersection.
The other negotiating parties, besides the Kauffmans, in the right-of-way acquisitions are Russell Lathrop Davis and Patricia Ann Davis who are trustees of the Russell L. and Patricia A. Davis Living Trust, and the CBC Steel Buildings LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Company. The city has settled negotiations with all parties concerned.

When completed, Louise Avenue will become a four-lane traffic corridor from Interstate 5 to the west to the city’s eastern limits at the railroad tracks just west of the Manteca Unified School District offices. Louise Avenue and Lathrop Road are the two major traffic arteries connecting the region’s two major highways – the I-5 freeway to the west and Highway 99 to the east.

A bit of trivia about the corner house on Louise and McKinley avenues that is scheduled for demolition: this was the home for many years of Priscilla Haynes, the first woman judge to serve on the bench in Manteca Municipal Court, now the Manteca Superior Court of  San Joaquin County.