Tulare Road Construction in Crisis

December 29, 2008 8:42:25 PM PST
The state budget crisis is forcing leaders in the South Valley to take drastic measures in order to keep important road construction projects going. Tulare County officials are having to loan themselves the money.Tulare County officials are trying to get creative to keep this construction equipment moving as the state's budget problems continue with no end in sight. Dinuba City Manager Ed Todd says "We've balanced our budgets and we've all done the things that we have to do to keep our services going and now the state's saying, Well, because we're in jeopardy of running out of money we're not able to make reimbursements to you."

Todd says city and Tulare County officials are finding themselves footing the bill for the state when it should be the other way around?and it's proving to be difficult. Officials have been planning for years to widen Road 80, a major thoroughfare between Visalia and Dinuba. Now, they're going to use money from Measure "R" ? a half-cent sales tax passed by the voters to improve transportation?to get the first phase done. Former Dinuba Mayor Terry McKittrick says "It's heavily trafficked because of the trucks that we have coming out of Wal-Mart and Best Buy and all that so really Road 80 is very important to us."

The city of Dinuba has put more than one million dollars into much-needed projects like this unfinished recharge water basin which is supposed to bring more water into the city ... only to find out the state can't reimburse money originally promised.

City and County leaders will be heading to Washington, D.C. on February 1st. They're hoping to secure millions not only for Road 80 but other county projects they desperately need completed.

But officials are still trying to figure out how to keep funding other projects in jeopardy of being halted ? like the widening of Highway 198 between Visalia and Hanford, and Mooney Boulevard.

Ted Smalley, from the Tulare County Association of Governments or TCAG, says "In fact, we can only use it if those projects were enlisted in our expenditure plan. We'll be able to do it for potentially a 6-month period but if this budget problem persists or goes further then our projects and other projects will be delayed."

Officials are getting together in January to discuss more back up plans.

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