Merced County Times Newspaper
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Atwater City Council starts 2020 on positive notes

The Atwater City Council kicked off the new year on Monday with a positive report from the city’s finance director who announced the final details of the long-awaited Winton Way Reconstruction Project, and steps to protect funding set aside to provide cleaner water throughout town.

Meanwhile, residents were offered a new way to view the council’s regular meetings thanks to a revamped city website that allows for live video streaming.

Finance Director Kellie Jacobs-Hunter presented an unaudited verbal report of the city’s revenue and expenses for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Taxes brought in to the city came to 107 percent of the amount budgeted for, with property and sales taxes in particular coming in far above the projected amounts — a total of $9.4 million. Licensing and permits came in just below the amount budgeted for by 2 percent, for a total of $9.2 million, with charges for services trailing by 3 percent for a total of $2.1 million.

One area highlighted for its shortfall of $290,493 was the sale of properties, with Jacobs-Hunter noting that the shortfall was largely due to an escrow that did not close until after June 30 of 2019. However she was quick to note that since that point, the city has since seen the money from the sale come in, and it will be reflected in the reports for 2020.

Turning to departmental revenues, Jacobs-Hunter noted that at the end of the fiscal year, city departments had brought in 102 percent of the total amount budgeted for, for a grand total of $14.1 million.

Looking to expenditures from the General Fund, the majority of departments appear to have tightened their belts when it comes to spending, with departments like police and fire saving just over $1 million of the city-wide $1.6 million. Additionally, expenditures in the budget also included $396,887 accounted for a loan payment to the Waste Water Fund from the General Fund, as well as $200,000 transferred into the General Fund’s reserve and Other Pension Employee Benefits.

One noticeable area that was far overspent was related to the establishment of local cannabis businesses, which had a budgeted amount of $21,000, and an actual spending of $82,412. City staff noted that this arose from the legal costs of bringing cannabis retailers into Atwater, with Jacobs-Hunter quick to note that per the council’s direction, revenues generated from cannabis businesses operating in Atwater were not considered in the General Fund’s revenue.

Nonetheless, the report shows a positive increase in the General Fund of $1.7 million, bringing the estimated balance back into the black with a positive balance of $54,785 after having started the fiscal year with a negative balance of just under $1.7 million.

Actions taken during the council meeting by city leaders were aimed at ensuring that clean drinking water would continue to become a reality for more residents in Atwater. Passing with a unanimous vote, the adoption of Resolution No. 3130-20 saw the net proceeds from a TCP settlement be used solely for the remediation of TCP from the City of Atwater’s municipal drinking water systems. To further strengthen this objective, the resolution requires a super-majority vote from any future council in order to modify or repeal the action taken Monday night.

Other matters discussed during the council meeting include the Winton Way Reconstruction Project. Awarded to Atwater based construction company Rolfe Construction Company, the project will see the revitalization of Winton Way between Broadway and Bellevue with a full re-pavement of the road between Broadway and Juniper, re-pavement of additional bad areas in the remaining stretch of road, repairing of deteriorated or damaged curbs, the addition of ADA compliant curbing at crossings, pedestrian activated crossings, and the relocation of crossing locations to safer areas.

The project is scheduled to start on Feb. 3 and complete approximately 60 business days later, with allowances made for weather and other inclement conditions as needed. Including a contingency, the project will cost $2.4 million, with any changes in the scope of work and associated costs to be brought before the council.

Finally, for those who were unable to make their way into council chambers on Monday evening, the City of Atwater unveiled a new streaming service of their meetings onto the City’s website at Produced in-house, the new capability aims to increase live access to the meetings while bringing down costs related to the recording of the meetings. Those who made use of the new service on Monday night to view the meeting were also greeted with a completely redone website that city staff redesigned to allow for ease of access and readability on everything from cell phones to desktops as needed.

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