Springs group seeks SVUSD help
The Springs Community Alliance tonight will try to enlist the Sonoma Valley Unified School District to lobby the county superintendent of schools to keep the Highway 12 project alive.
Dr. Steven Herrington, the county superintendent of schools, is one of seven members of the Oversight Board that will decid on the disposition of projects started by the county’s redevelopment agency before it was dissolved on Feb. 1.
The Springs group has assessed the other members of the Oversight Board, and figures it may have five votes on the seven-member board. But it is looking for more votes than that because if it can get a 6-1 or 7-0 vote from the Oversight Board, it would be a lot tougher for the state to deny the continuation of the project.
At Thursday night’s Springs Community Alliance meeting, the group decided to write a letter to the local school board and have someone show up to plead its case during the public comment portion of the meeting.
But the group is pressed for time since the Oversight Board has to forward its recommendations to the state by April 15. And the Oversight Board is having its first meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday.
“Five of the seven (votes on the Oversight Board) are likely to want to move the project forward,” Steve Cox told the group. Cox is the former chair of the Springs Redevelopment Advisory Committee and is the chair of the Springs Community Alliance.
Al Lerma, the county’s redevelopment assistant, told the group that the Highway 12 contract is on the list that the Oversight Board will receive. “The redevelopment agency had a contract with Public Works for the Highway 12 project,” Lerma said. “But the Supreme Court decision (in December) invalidated the contract. The Oversight Board can reinstate the contract.”
Lerma said that even if the project moves forward, it very well could be pared-down with items such as parking lots dropped. But it also could adopt the entire list that also covers redevelopment areas in Roseland and the Russian River.
Cox admitted that with time against it, the group would have only a limited opportunity to lobby the Oversight Board.
“There are unique aspects to this project,” Cox said. “The schools supported us in the past (on Highway 12). Let’s see if they can support us now.”
Lerma pointed out that Highway 12 is the largest Safe Routes to School project in the area. And he said that Caltrans would like to see the project finished.
In the letter to the school district, which is printed in its entirety on page B9, Cox says, “If the Oversight Board votes to preserve funding for the Highway 12 Improvement Project, it will turn a dangerous road into a pedestrian- and bike-friendly safe route to schools, parks, teen and community centers, and local-serving businesses. Sidewalks, lighting and landscaping will create a nicer neighborhood and improve the quality of life. Treatment of storm water runoff from the highway will improve water quality in local creeks. All of these benefits will surely result in increased property values and as a consequence, increased property tax revenues for SVUSD schools.
“If the Oversight Board votes to terminate the Highway 12 Improvement Project, the SVUSD may receive a portion of the project funding. We know how difficult school budget conditions are and how every dollar helps. However, the long-term value of the tremendous benefits of the project and its resulting increase in property tax revenues far exceed the relatively small amount of funding the SVUSD might receive if the project were to be terminated,” the letter continues.
In addition to seeking help from the school district, the group is also writing directly to the Oversight Board and will appear at Thursday’s meeting to make its case during the public comment section.