“Tonight is about promises kept,” Stacey Dabbs stated proudly at the first Measure V Annual Report presentation held Tuesday, April 2, at the Merced Senior Center. “Last time we were here was two years ago. We were celebrating the passage of Measure V.”
Dabbs is the executive director of Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG), which is responsible for administration of Measure V funds including keeping the public informed of its projects. A 14 member Citizens Oversight Committee reviews all Measure V financial transactions at regularly held public meetings.Those interested may find the schedule online at measurev-mcag.com.
At its core, MCAG is a regional transportation planning agency and metropolitan planning organization for Merced County. Its board is comprised of representatives of the county and each municipality. They also manage The Bus, YARTS and the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority.
The promises made and kept to date include:
• 100 percent of Measure V funds are spent on projects in Merced County
• The program has significant oversight, provided by the Citizens Oversight Committee
• An independent auditor verifies that money is used as intended
• The public is kept informed
“The bill did not address specific projects, but instead assigned percentages to types of projects. We want every voter to benefit from these funds,” Dabbs continued. “One of our first actions was to provide $150,000 for free bus fares for seniors, veterans and ADA eligible passengers.”
Because of the Measure V program, ridership on The Bus increased seven percent, with a fourth of riders from the free fare program. Since its start, 166,445 free trips were provided. MCAG has requested an increase in funding for this program.
Measure V created a half-cent transportation sales tax for a 30-year period ending in 2047. It passed with 71.3 percent voter support and projected a $15 million per year income to Merced County.
Of the 44 percent of funds tagged for regional projects, 27 percent is mandated for projects east of the San Joaquin River and 17 percent for the west side. Through the end of 2018, east side regional projects totaled $6.48 million. These projects included Winton Way reconstruction in Atwater, widening the Highway 99 Winton Parkway on-ramp in Livingston, Bradbury Road and Sandy Mush Road rehabilitations, and development for both widening Highway 59 between 16th Street and Olive Ave. and the Highway 59 Black Rascal Bridge, both in Merced.
West side regional projects received $4.08 million through the end of 2018.
Half of the money is allocated for local projects guided by the cities and county communities. It allows funding for anything from pothole repair to sidewalks and safe routes to schools. At least 20 percent of the local funds in each jurisdiction must be used to enhance alternative transportation modes like bicycles, passenger rail or pedestrians.
Five percent of Measure V funds are to be used for mass transit. And finally, one percent is directed to administration costs.
MCAG’s Measure V website provides complete information for the public including who is on the oversight committee, projects planned, studies and reports, and audits.
Merced Mayor Mike Murphy thanked the voters. “Merced County voters were willing to tax themselves to have better roads. Because of these funds, we’ve been able to do many things.”
Murphy cited road and sidewalk repairs around Fremont Elementary, 26th Street, G Street and M Street. He added that widening Highway 59 and improvement to the bridges at Rascal Creek were larger projects that would take a little longer to complete. He assured the audience that funds would be available to complete these projects, though some are still in planning phases.
“We can be responsive with things like pothole repair,” Murphy said. “You may use the ‘Merced Connect’ app to report potholes. During the past year, every pothole reported has been repaired within 48 hours.”
The app is free and on GooglePlay and Apple APP Store. The Merced Connect app is a tool allowing people to submit, track, and view nearby service requests through their smartphones or online. It’s the easiest way to report potholes, burned out street lights, damaged signs, and other things the city may need to repair. It also provides information about news, announcements, water conservation and more.
“You can see the millions of dollars coming in and making projects happen all over the county. Each area picks their own projects,” said Jim Cunningham, vice xhairperson of the Measure V Citizens Oversight Committee. He was also part of the committee to make the measure a reality.
“There are some inconveniences during the project work, but it’s worth it when something gets done,” Cunningham continued. “I don’t like taxes but this is one that does a lot of good.”