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Road Construction, Utility Work Come Under Council Scrutiny

POSTED January 8, 2013 9:06 p.m.

City leaders and Oakdale residents were basically assured by Pacific Gas and Electric officials that the underground conversion of overhead power lines along South Yosemite Avenue would not result in any cost to local citizens.

The agenda item regarding establishment of the South Yosemite Utility District had been continued from the last council meeting when officials wanted more notice give to residents regarding the possible cost to homeowners. The proposed district along South Yosemite Avenue, between H and J streets and Sierra Avenue, is the proposed site for a new community park and skate plaza.

Tim Bloodgood of PG&E told the council that a program mandated by the Public Utilities Commission had a credit bank that would pay for the underground conversion of utility lines.

There had been a concern by council members that the allocation provided by PG&E only covered $1500 per parcel and some homeowners would be impacted if costs went above that figure.

“It’s just a matter of submitting another form,” said Bloodgood. “Despite the $1500 rule, PG&E offers to pay the entire cost of the conversion.”

The only exception would be if a property did not meet code regulations or the owner wanted a modification.

Kathleen Westenberg addressed the council with concerns about future repair accessibility after utility lines were put underground and if the cost also covered telephone and cable TV lines.

Bloodgood explained that conduits and accessibility points are designed in the project to allow for lines to easily be pulled out and replaced.

“It’s not something that happens very often,” said Bloodgood, explaining that repairs for underground lines are less likely due to no exposure to the weather. “The major benefit about undergrounding is also beautification.”

Resident Ronald Holcombe inquired if the cost included cable TV and telephone lines that would also be converted along the route.

Bloodgood explained that PG&E “took the lead” in the project and AT&T had the same PUC rules for funding as PG&E. Cable TV lines are classified as a “tenant” of the other utility lines and are included in the conversion.

Holcombe asked if the council could get the resolution amended to include the other lines’ costs being covered.

City Attorney Tom Hallinan had the item postponed to make modifications to the resolution and the matter later passed 5-0.

In other street construction matters, Chuck Deschenes, filling in as Interim City Manager, addressed the council regarding funding updates for city street maintenance and paving.

“Cities valleywide have had a lot of trouble getting money to maintain downtown streets,” said Deschenes.

He explained that with the demise of the redevelopment agency and community block grant funding being raided or curtailed by the federal government, the outlook was not good for the needed improvements to the city’s downtown roadways.

“Some (streets) are in such disrepair, you get the feeling that your car is sinking in a chuck hole,” said Mayor Pat Paul.

Paul inquired how streets were prioritized for repair, pointing to some downtown areas that were in severe need.

“Prioritizing is always an issue,” said Deschenes. “You can’t do them all.”

Deschenes explained that sometimes streets that are in need of improvements are not grant eligible or that one scheduled lower may move to a higher priority due to an available funding source.

Other options for funding included a transportation tax or participating in a consortium of cities that had a street repair fund.

Councilman Farrell Jackson asked if there was an advantage to being in a consortium, compared to Riverbank, which did not belong to one.

Community Development Coordinator Lourdes Barragan stated that studies showed that cities in a consortium received more street funding money than cities that were not.

Barragan added that Oakdale received more than Riverbank last year in street repair funding.

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