Council weighs proposed amendment to Measure R expenditure plan
Outreach meeting draws little public interest
The Porterville City Council on Tuesday had a special meeting to discuss and seek public input on proposed changes to how special road, bike, and transit tax dollars are spent throughout Tulare County.
Measure R, approved by Tulare County voters in November of 2006, is a 30-year, half-cent sales tax that is expected to address major regional transportation needs in the area through 2037. Under the measure’s current expenditure plan, 50 percent of the tax dollars go toward regional projects, 35 percent toward local projects, 14 percent toward clean air projects, and 1 percent toward administration and planning.
Due to a projected $15 million surplus in the clean air category, which encompasses transit, pedestrian trails, and bike paths, the Tulare County Transportation Authority — the body that oversees how Measure R money is spent — is proposing an amendment to the expenditure plan.
A provision in the voter-approved plan states that the Tulare County Association of Governments board of directors — made up of one representative from each of the county’s eight incorporated cities, the five members of the county Board of Supervisors, and three members at-large — may “annually review and propose amendments to the expenditure plan to provide for the use of additional federal, state, and local funds, to account for unexpected revenues, or to take into consideration unforeseen circumstances.” The provision also states that amendments call for the same voting requirements that TCAG used to adopt the original plan, which means approval by a majority of the cities, a majority of the population, an approval by the Board of Supervisors is required for the amendment to be adopted.
The city of Porterville is proposing to amend the regional and clean air components of the plan.
On Tuesday, staff with the city’s public works department said the city wants to amend the plan to provide more project flexibility for future Highway 190 and Highway 65 interchange improvements.
The city is also requesting increased transit and bike funding.
City Engineer Mike Reed said the money will assist in the creation of additional park space in the city and said staff is currently working on bike and pedestrian trail parkway projects.
The projects include: Veterans Park trail lighting and improvements, Tule River Parkway Phase 3 project from Main Street to Plano Street, and the Tule River Parkway Phase 4 project from Westwood Street to Highway 65.
“This amendment will go a long way toward financing the above listed projects that currently lack construction funding,” Reed told the council.
Ted Smalley, TCAG’s executive director, said that if the requirements are met, the Tulare County Transportation Authority could adopt the amendment by May or June. The amendment can then be implemented 45 days after the authority’s approval.
Tuesday night’s meeting also provided members of the public with an opportunity to speak on the matter.
Armando Silva, president of Southern Sierra Cyclists, said he originally attended the meeting to speak on behalf of the recreational group, but said as he listened to the conversation, he also wanted to speak as a concerned citizen.
“As a teacher in this community, I’m critically concerned about the lack of safe routes for kids to ride their bikes to school,” Silva said, adding that cyclists in his club “frankly avoid Porterville because it’s a dangerous city to ride a bike in.”
Kristy Noble, a teacher at Harmony Magnet Academy and a concerned mom, also spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Noble said she moved to Porterville from Mission Viejo in August and said she also brought along her 17-year-old son — an avid cyclist.
“He’s got two road bikes and a mountain bike; he’s been on them three times,” she said. “So I’ve got a 17-year-old who’s telling me he’s scared to ride in Porterville.”
“I do like to run errands on my bike, it’s a bit more fun and it gets me more active, but I’m scared to ride on the roads in Porterville because there are few marked bike lanes,” her son said.
Porterville resident Ellen Nichols said that though she doesn’t ride bicycles, she is a frequent pedestrian.
“There are places where it is extremely dangerous to be a pedestrian, especially at the crossings where the railroad once was. Now that the tracks are out, in a lot of cases, there is little or no shoulder on the road, especially around Henderson,” she said. “If I knew how to address these things, I’d have a different pay scale from what I have right now. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but there are plenty of smart minds in this room who may be able to come up with some ways of doing that.”
There was no action taken by the council Tuesday night. The meeting was the second in a series of presentations planned by TCAG throughout the months of February and March. The next meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Dinuba City Hall, 405 E. El Monte Way.