Merced County Times Newspaper
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Funds on way for city repairs, improvements

Atwater city leaders on Monday night announced numerous projects for repairs, improvements, and beautification that will be taking place throughout the city in the months to come. Coming to a grand total of $144.44 mill, the council noted that the vast majority of the money comes to them in the form of grants, investments, or other resources from the county and state.

Landscaping and beautification

First up was the awarding of a services agreement with a private business to begin addressing landscaping issues throughout Atwater. The selection of a private business to take care of various districts comes as the city found their existing staff was spread too thinly. Council members have noted that city workers have been asked to do too much in certain areas outside their scope of duties while other areas were left behind. By contracting with Joe’s Landscaping of Newman, city leaders hope to have existing staff be able to more adequately focus on their existing roles within parks while Joe’s Landscaping addresses the needs of the landscaping in other areas of the city. In total, the new contract will not exceed $520,305 for two years, and can be terminated in the event that the company is found to be doing an inadequate job as judged by city leaders.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Mayor Pro-Tem Brian Raymond began as Public Works Director Vernice Haddix concluded his summation of the agreement. “It’s about time,” he finished before casting the final vote for unanimous approval of the agreement.

Councilmember Cindy Vierra echoes those sentiments, saying: “This should free up our employees to take care of other things and I can’t wait to see the beautification of Atwater.”

Transportation

On the more long term side of things is a Measure V-related project that will see Winton Way, between Bellevue and Broadway, receive much needed upgrades in the coming year.

While the initial project was set in motion nine months ago, staff members explained that they had been working with the Merced County Association of Governments Measure V Regional Projects committee, and in doing so had been able to work alongside of County Supervisor Darron McDaniel to secure additional funding. Previously the project had $1 million secured, and through their work city staff was able to secure an additional $1.66 million for a total of $2.66 million. In addition to relying less on money already present within the city budget at a time when city leaders are focusing on being the ledgers back into the black, city staff explained to those on the dais that this will ensure the road repair work gets off to a good start and is done in a contiguous manner.

The improvements are expected to begin taking place in February of 2020, providing that weather at the time allows.

Likewise, Mayor Paul Creighton noted that CalTrans will be investing $78 million into the portion of Highway 99 that runs adjacent to Atwater as they work to make improvements along the corridor.

Housing

Finally, the City of Atwater now has additional funds open to its General Fund from the state of California. Having been found to have deficient municipal codes in regards to housing five months ago, city leaders and staff had begun working alongside of California Governor Gavin Newsom and staff to unify language used to describe residential structures in Atwater to those used throughout the state. As the City of Atwater’s municipal codes regarding housing have been brought in line with new state regulations from Senate Bill 2, new resources are now being made available to the City of Atwater, including a non-competitive grant for $160,000 that can be put into the city’s General Fund and used at city leader’s discretion.

Public Safety

Also on the agenda for the night’s meeting was an announcement from Atwater Police Chief Michael Salvador regarding upgrades to his department’s aging fleet of vehicles. Chief Salvador asked the council to take the next step in approving a purchase agreement to secure new hybrid electric cruisers from Razzari Ford. In a similar fashion to the councilmember’s discussions, money for the cruisers comes from locally available grants that hadn’t been fully pursued until recently by Chief Salvador. While the Atwater Police Department’s vehicles will see the bulk of the benefit from bringing in the new plug-in electric vehicles, they’re not the only city department who will benefit. Public Works will also see new vehicles come into their possession as part of the step forward. In total, the agreement is not to exceed $95,917.50 for the purchase of three new 2019 Ford Fusion plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Also noted during the meeting was the conclusion of recent litigation related to TCP contamination of Atwater’s water supply, in which the city came out on top. As such, the city will be receiving $63 million that will be used to secure clean water systems throughout the city.

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