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Authority greenlights spending $248K of redevelopment monies

Councilman calls for abandonment of electronic sign
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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City officials have given the OK to spend $248,358 of redevelopment funds. In a unanimous vote at Monday night’s Auburn Urban Development Authority meeting City Council members, acting as authority members, approved the Old Town Firehouse Upgrade Project and Old City Hall Rehabilitation Project, according to Mayor Bill Kirby. The projects called for $134,457 and $113,901 respectively. Kirby said he wanted one thing to be very clear about the Old City Hall renovation. “Part of that is going to have public restrooms available to the Downtown and Central Square area,” Kirby said. In a past interview City Manager Bob Richardson said it was his understanding that the City Council wants redevelopment funds to be spent in Auburn, because they are raised through Auburn residents’ property taxes. Gov. Jerry Brown has stated that he wants to freeze redevelopment funds and absorb them back into the state. Also at Monday night’s authority meeting, Councilman Kevin Hanley gave a thumbs down to the electronic motion sign that could be erected in Auburn. At its Feb. 14 meeting the authority voted to allocate $60,000 in redevelopment funds to the sign if City Manager Bob Richardson thought it was a feasible project. Hanley did not attend the discussion about the sign, nor was he there when the vote was taken. Hanley said in public comment Monday night he had been approached by residents in grocery stores, restaurants and has been sent numerous e-mails. Hanley said 100 percent of these responses were against the sign. “I deeply admire the volunteers who want to construct the project, but I think the electronic billboard would do more harm than good to Auburn’s small-town image,” Hanley said Tuesday. “The action by the AUDA on Feb. 14 also gives the false impression that the city has lots of money and is wasting it. The fact is that we are trying to keep $1.9 million in redevelopment money for good projects in Auburn and prevent the state from taking the money. On the other hand, our city General Fund has dropped by 25 percent over the last several years, to $7.9 million, and we face the most difficult budget in our history. We should be prudent with all taxpayer funds, whether it’s redevelopment funds, sewer or general funds.” Hanley said he asked the volunteers working on the project to abandon it because of the negative responses he received. Hanley said he requested the authority discuss the sign again at the next meeting if volunteers don’t take any action. Auburn resident Bart Ruud, who was one of the people proposing the project, said the volunteers plan to let it go based on the reactions they have received. “It’s water under the bridge,” Ruud said. “Virgil (Traynor) is going to let it go. You can’t bring people back when they have made up their minds. I really think there was some potential there, and it didn’t have to be a flashy, gaudy thing like you see in Roseville. It was never intended to be anything like that.” Kirby said he expects the sign to be on the authority’s March 14 agenda. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com