Division jeopardizes Kings Beach funding | SierraSun.com

Division jeopardizes Kings Beach funding

If Kings Beach residents remains divided between roundabouts or traffic signals, federal and state funding for the community revitalization could evaporate, Placer County officials warned.

“The federal money and state money, if we’re not together as a community, they will spend it elsewhere,” said Placer County District 5 Supervisor Bruce Kranz at an informal meeting with constituents in Tahoe Vista last week.

The $30-million Commercial Core Improvement project, which looks to be more of a $40-million project when all is said and done, has the highest risk of losing federal and state money if it is delayed six months or one year, said Placer Deputy Director of Public Works Peter Kraatz in a phone interview Monday.

“The local [funding] sources are the most secure,” Kraatz said.

State funds administered by Caltrans may be used on other state development projects if the Kings Beach project does not progress within the year, Kraatz said.

Federal funding from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act is also at risk, Kraatz said. The total funding of $5.18 million from the federal source was divided into three applications.

Kraatz said a $1.2 million request in 2004 has the highest risk of being lost, because it will expire in 2009 if it is not spent.

If the project loses those funds, it would likely be reduced or pushed back to a later date, Kraatz said.

“We would go back to the same sources,” Kraatz said. “Ultimately, it would be a delayed delivery.”

The county has acquired $32.18 million in secured and proposed funding to date, but once an alternative is selected and the design phase is complete, officials say the project could cost up to $40 million.

If an environmental document is not certified within the year, acquiring new funds and retaining promised money will be difficult, Kraatz said.

The environmental document must be approved by the Placer County Planning Commission, the Placer County Board of Supervisors, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board, the Federal Highway Administration and Caltrans.

“When we go into another year, we go into the next funding round,” the deputy director said. “If we haven’t started making movement on these secured state dollars … the money is at risk.”

Officials say the community’s division is exacerbating the project’s precarious financial situation because decision-makers would be reluctant to authorize an environmental report the community remains divided on.

“It’s always difficult for a board to make a decision when they’re not sure where the community is leaning,” said Jennifer Merchant, manager of Placer County’s Tahoe operations.

At a public hearing last month, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board witnessed the community’s split first-hand.

“Consensus in the community would be a great asset to the process, but full agreement is sometimes difficult to achieve,” said the planning agency’s spokesman Jeff Cowen in an e-mail responding to an inquiry.

Cowen noted, however, that the planning agency has made decisions on past controversial issues. In the end, it comes down to whether or not they feel confident in the environmental report, he said.

“[The governing board] has got to go with the information that is in front of them,” Cowen said in a phone interview. “If there’s division in the community, then there’s division in the community.”

Merchant said that after hearing a mixed message over the past weeks, officials are looking to the community to work things out over the summer before the issues are brought before the boards for a decision in August or September.

“They’re familiar with their issues, but it makes it a lot easier to hear a unified message,” Merchant said.

The endorsements made by independent organizations, such as the League to Save Lake Tahoe, of one alternative over another will be taken into consideration, but local community comment has a high value, Merchant said.

“It’s just a matter of opinion on which one of those alternatives will meet [the community’s] goals,” Merchant said. “We can try to work on the things that we agree on, and start from there.”

Although no one can tell which direction the governing bodies will take, one thing is certain, a certified environmental document designating a preferred alternative is required before the project can move into the design phase and take action on federal and state funds, Kraatz said.

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