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Auburn redevelopment agency could be dissolved

Streetscape project only in phase two of 10
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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City Council may have to decide whether to dissolve the Auburn Redevelopment Agency or give the state an initial percentage of its funds, totaling $287,405, come January. According to Auburn City Manager, Bob Richardson, the status of the agency is pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought against the California State Finance Office by the California Redevelopment Association. The association represents most of the redevelopment agencies in the state, including Auburn’s. If the California Supreme Court sides with the state, Richardson said changes will be made in Auburn. “If it does, the City Council will have to make a decision to continue on with the agency at a lower funding level or essentially dissolve it,” Richardson said. “We will present them with full analysis in late January.” Richardson said while all the current projects that were put under contract are fully-funded and moving forward to completion, the city may need to find other avenues to fund future enhancements. “All of our current projects are fully-funded. It won’t have an impact on our current projects,” Richardson said. The redevelopment association says Assembly Bills 126 and 127, which were passed by the legislature this summer, are illegal. AB 126 and 127 state that redevelopment agencies have the option of paying a percentage of $1.7 billion to the state, or closing their doors. Auburn’s estimated share for 2008-2009 would be .0169 percent of the total $1.7 billion the state planned on generating from redevelopment agencies, according to the California Redevelopment Association’s projections using data from the state controller’s office. Auburn’s projected expense for 2011-2012 is $263,027, should the state win the lawsuit and City Council opt to keep the redevelopment agency. In 2010, voters passed Proposition 22, which bans the state from taking any funds allocated to local government, public safety and transportation. Redevelopment on hold in Auburn? AB 126 and 127 froze all redevelopment funds that weren’t already under contract on Oct. 1. According to Richardson, when the city found out that would be required, it put as many existing projects under contract as possible. Richardson said redevelopment funds are used not only to beautify the city, but to make vital improvements. Most of the Streetscape project was aimed at making repairs, not aesthetic enhancements, according to Richardson. “We try to make use of each of our projects to improve not just aesthetics, but also repairing critical infrastructure,” Richardson said. “A redevelopment agency is a very effective tool for creating enhancements to a city, but it is not the only tool or method at our disposable to keep enhancing our town.” The redevelopment agency is funded through bonds, which are later paid back with the city’s tax revenue. While most of the current funds are under contract, Richardson said about $50,000 has been frozen. Future uses for funds Linda Robinson, president of the Old Town Business Association, said she was a part of meetings that discussed how redevelopment funds used for Streetscape Phase I would be delegated. She said while Old Town was never supposed receive any improvements via redevelopment funds, she does have at least one project in mind for the future. Robinson said the parking lot, owned by Bud Proscissi and adjacent to Tio Pepe Mexican Restaurant and Bootlegger’s Old Town Tavern and Grill, is in need of improvements. “Every year it’s getting worse and the potholes are like mini fishing holes. It’s one of the first things you see when people get off the freeway at Maple Street,” Robertson said. “I don’t know if the Old Town Business Association could handle a project of that size. Redevelopment funds would be perfect to use.” Bernie Schroeder, director of public works, said at a city council meeting on Oct. 24 that there would potentially be about $5,000 left over from Streetscape Phase II. Phase two included work a on a stretch of road from Elder’s Bus Station to Pine Street, along Lincoln Way. City council members Bridget Powers and Kevin Hanley asked if the funds could be used to make additional improvements related to Streetscape Phase II. Schroeder said that all funds must be deemed a necessity to the project. “It’s way too premature to think about spending money that may be needed to complete the project,” Schroeder said. “We don’t like to in public comment come out with the ways to spend taxpayer money. There are some available funds. It has to be deemed that it’s necessary.” Streetscape in the lurch? Schroeder said the master plan for the Streetscape project includes 10 phases to connect Old Town Auburn to Downtown Auburn. So far, phase one is complete and phase two is scheduled to be completed by January. The remaining eight phases are not under contract yet. If the redevelopment agency were dissolved, the city would have to find other ways to fund the rest of the phases. Schroeder said redevelopment funds have also been used to make improvements to the jury parking lot, off of Auburn Folsom Road, firehouse, and future site of the California Welcome Center, in Downtown Auburn. The redevelopment agency has been successful at revitalizing parts of Auburn, according to Schroeder. “I’m from Auburn. I’ve lived her most of my life. That central square transformed itself to a location that you see so many people gather,” Schroeder said. “The whole intent of redevelopment is revitalizations. Especially, it’s inviting to tourists. It is vital economically to be able to put in enhancements, so that can we can entice shoppers to our area.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.