As purse-strings loosen, city eyes new projects | March 29, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - March 29, 2013

As purse-strings loosen, city eyes new projects

For the first time since 2007, the Pleasanton City Council's biennial Priorities-Setting meeting last Monday was a cheerful event. With the city's economy improving and tax revenue increasing, council members declared their support of most of the 13 separate goals listed in a 22-page 2013 work plan prepared by City Manager Nelson Fialho and his staff. For sure, a green light was given to move forward on a public-private partnership for Phase II of developing Bernal Community Park, the 318-acre largely vacant parcel along Bernal Avenue and across from the Fairgrounds. Three years ago, $5 million was spent developing two lighted Little League baseball fields. Now more will be spent on fields, some lighted, for soccer, lacrosse, junior football and, yes, more baseball diamonds. This time, the improvements, authorized as part of a voter referendum, will include a woodlands area, riparian habitat and landscaping along a meandering creek that runs through the site.

Other categories considered by the council related to the city's General Plan, city finances, affordable housing, traffic, economic development, youth programs, public safety, quality of life, environmental awareness and city services. Also on the list were potential new projects for City Council rankings, new projects to be added to the priorities list and two new projects submitted by Mayor Jerry Thorne related to performance standards that the public could use in measuring the work of the council, and development of a comprehensive process for monitoring state legislation that could impact local control over cities such as ours.

For Council Members Karla Brown and Jerry Pentin, who were elected to the council last November, this was their first look at how city priorities are chosen and what they are. For Thorne and Vice Mayor Cheryl Cook-Kallio, it was their second or third time around and, because of improved tax revenue, it was more encouraging. Three candidates seeking election to the vacant fifth seat on the council also sat through the three-hour priorities-setting session which will be helpful if one of them wins the election on May 7. At the meeting were candidates David Miller, Kathy Narum and Olivia Sanwong.

Some of the priorities endorsed by the council will cost money, lots of it, including the rebuilding of the Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens senior housing, reduction of public employee pension fund liabilities, and renovations at the Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center, which should be completed by July 4. Funding is also completed for extending Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road and Livermore, which should open this fall. State and federal grants totaling $250,000 have been secured to study and possibly plan for water reclamation methods to reduce the city's draw-down of potable drinking water supplies, and the council agreed to pursue the replacement of street lights with LED lighting, although budgeted funds have yet to be approved.

As much as funding restrictions have eased on the public purse strings, however, the council also made it clear that tight fiscal controls will remain in place. That means that a much-needed, larger new library and a new Civic Center on the Bernal property will have to wait for another year(s) along with converting the old Pioneer Cemetery on Sunol Boulevard, which would need a water system and maintenance staff.

The council did agreed to move roughly $1.2 million out of a reserve fund for building a bypass road to the Callippe golf course back into a capital improvement fund to be used for other projects. Golfers now use Alisal Street which the city rebuilt even though it's in unincorporated Alameda County. The widening of Highway 84 stayed on this year's priority list even though Measure B, which would have provided the funding, failed to win at the ballot box last November. The council said it would encourage sponsors of that measure to bring it back for another vote in November 2014, but this time with a sunset clause that would require voters to approve any future extensions.


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