02-08-24

www.montereycountyweekly.com february 8-14, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 13 Another storm, another series of setbacks to Monterey County’s road conditions. You don’t need an engineering degree to see the immediate damage from flooding, fallen limbs and debris covering roadways. Potholes are now small ponds. But the deteriorated conditions go back to before this year’s storms or last year’s storms. Back in 2020, County Supervisor Mary Adams and then-County Supervisor John Phillips (since retired) asked county staff to come up with a plan to get county roads up to a standard of “fair” within 10 years. Sounds like a pretty modest goal. That is, until you start measuring it. At that time, there was an estimated $1.2 billion worth of deferred maintenance for the county’s 175 bridges and 1,257 miles of county-maintained roads. That’s enough miles, Randy Ishii is fond of pointing out, to reach one-third of the way across the United States. Ishii is director of the Monterey County Department of Public Works, Facilities and Parks, and has been tasked with coming up with a strategy to get all of those roads from “poor” to “fair” based on a standardized pavement quality index. Since the board referral in 2020, things have largely gotten worse thanks to the weather. In the first four months of 2023, there were 666 requests to the County for pothole repairs, three times more than the previous year. In the first six months of 2023, there were 24 legal claims filed for pothole-related damage, compared to 11 in all of 2022. But Ishii today sounds optimistic about a plan to meet the modest goal of “fair,” and also about a whole new framework for how the county pays for road maintenance. On Jan. 31, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a new methodology for how we pay for road repairs. The Local Road Rehabilitation Program 2.0 is a new formula championed by Ishii. Instead of issuing about $66 million in bonds that would need to be paid back over time—with interest, to the tune of a whopping $43.3 million in plan 1.0—version 2.0 will use what is known as a “payas-you-go” formula. The idea calls for a mix of funding sources. One is to bring back a dedicated chunk (25 percent) of the county’s transient-occupancy tax for roads. Funds from local transportation sales tax Measure X (roughly $7.5 million per year) and the state gas tax will go toward major arterial roads—both of Monterey County’s biggest industries, agriculture and tourism, strain road conditions. As far as prioritizing, the county will continue with a pilot program in communities including Spreckels, Aromas, Bradley and San Ardo—and down the road, such unincorporated communities will need to agree to finance some of their own ongoing maintenance needs through a Prop. 218 process. It’s a smart new formula to spread out the cost and avoid massive interest payments for bonds. But of course it comes with unknowns. Specifically, gas tax revenue is on a downward trend and as we transition to electric vehicles, it’s an old model that will generate less and less revenue. “It’s a challenge for all of us,” Ishii says of that statewide funding dilemma. Road projects are immensely expensive, largely for reasons beyond the county’s control—fuel, labor, materials costs. Consider the stretch of Harkins Road and Hunter Lane in Spreckels that were recently repaved, after getting chewed up by heavy agricultural use. Crews went at least 1 foot deeper than the old asphalt, pulverizing and recycling that material. Hot mix asphalt was then spread on top for a smooth new surface. Total cost: $7.1 million, for 2.9 miles of road. This is about $2.4 million per mile. The road reconstruction average is closer to $2 million per mile. Meanwhile, there are lower-cost maintenance approaches—like overlay “mill-and-fill,” for $1 million a mile, or “chip seal” for $250,00-$300,000 per mile that can extend the life of a road. The county ordered two “hot trucks” pre-pandemic, and the first one finally arrived after a delay. These vehicles ($270,000 each) can deliver the same hotmix asphalt that is used in brandnew roads to potholes, hopefully offering longer-lasting fixes. “We are trying to find newer and more efficient ways of doing our business,” Ishii says. Still, he offers some caution: “We should temper and set our expectations appropriately.” Sara Rubin is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at sara@mcweekly.com. Road Work County roads are terrible. Public Works hatches a plan to fix them. By Sara Rubin Photo Bomb…Squid loves sea snail mail, with regular correspondence from fellow cephalopods written lovingly in ink. During election season, Squid especially loves checking the mailbox, curious to see what the candidates are saying. Squid’s beak fell open when Squid received a mailer from Kate Daniels, running for county supervisor in District 5, and Squid recognized an image photographed by and published in Monterey County Weekly. Squid’s colleagues are serious about copyright and, as a rule, don’t license out editorial photos for commercial purposes—certainly not for political campaigns. A couple of days earlier, Squid’s colleague saw the photo in an Instagram ad and asked the campaign to remove it, which they did. But it was too late to stop the mail—18,000 copies were already with the U.S. Postal Service. Daniels says she mistakenly told her campaign team the photo was OK to use. “This is on me, and I apologize,” she says. “I was just not paying attention.” Squid’s boss will be sending an invoice to resolve this copyright infringement situation, and Squid hopes Daniels’ team learns something about copyright. Squid also hopes her team realizes “I was just not paying attention” is not a strong campaign slogan. Step Count…Speaking of sea snail mail, Squid loves following public agencies’ paper trails. Which is why Squid was fascinated by the paperwork problem that came before the Del Rey Oaks City Council on Jan. 23, where businessman Vince Pinaldi is planning to buy a property on Calle Del Oaks from the Davi Family Trust—which has owned the property for decades—for $4.2 million. Pinaldi’s company, an automotive restoration business, is already leasing it. In question is how many square feet the building is permitted for, which matters for its water allocation. Pinaldi and his attorney Tony Lombardo contended the property, since being built in 1978, has been taxed and valued based on it being 11,200 square feet with a mezzanine that may or may have not been used at times, and may or may have not had stairs to it. The hearing was their appeal of the city’s building official Joe Headley’s determination that, based on his records, there was never a stairway in any approved building permit, and therefore, the property was only 9,600 square feet, not 11,200—which means a reduction of 0.112 acre-feet of annual water allocation. Headley told the council that he can’t sign a form he believes to be incorrect—the permitted square footage: “Now it’s up to who will sign at the bottom of that form,” he said. The council punted, and voted to reconsider on Feb. 27. Squid will have popcorn ready. the local spin SQUID FRY THE MISSION OF MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY IS TO INSPIRE INDEPENDENT THINKING AND CONSCIOUS ACTION, ETC. That is about $2.4 million per mile. Send Squid a tip: squid@mcweekly.com

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