By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Healdsburg has received some welcome news — approval to spend $13.5 million in bond proceeds that were at stake after the state dissolved redevelopment agencies.
The California Department of Finance last week formally notified the city it could use the money, which is intended for a variety of projects, ranging from retrofit of the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge to construction of a roundabout to replace a confusing five-way intersection near downtown.
“It’s real good news,” Mayor Susan Jones said Wednesday. “It’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
Healdsburg, along with many other cities and counties, has been at odds with the state over which of its redevelopment projects are still valid following the dismantling of redevelopment programs.
About 70 lawsuits filed by local governments, developers and affordable housing advocates are active, challenging how much redevelopment money the state can claim and redirect to local government entities.
Gov. Jerry Brown led a push in 2011 to dismantle the state’s approximate 400 redevelopment agencies, which were established more than 60 years ago to combat urban blight. Saying the agencies had diverged from their original purpose, essentially becoming municipal tax shelters for all sorts of projects, he acted to redirect the property tax revenue they generate to local schools, law enforcement and other services to relieve pressure on the state’s general fund.
Although unsuccessful in preserving more than $27 million for redevelopment projects, Healdsburg did get the state to let it spend about half that amount — $13.5 million.
The Department of Finance agreed those funds were derived from bonds issued prior to Jan. 1, 2011, the cut-off date for launching new redevelopment projects.
“It’s huge for us. These are monies we really have been counting on for some time,” Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian said.
“These are critical projects — what development bonds were intended to be for. We’re not talking about building golf courses, or other things.”
The projects approved include:
*$2.4 million for building a roundabout at the intersection of Healdsburg Avenue, Mill and Vine streets, and Westside Road.
*$2.5 million toward repair of the aged Healdsburg Memorial Bridge.
*$4 million for infrastructure and entryway improvements from the freeway to the five-way intersection, as well as the Dry Creek interchanges at Highway 101.
*$2 million in “streetscape” improvements downtown, including “pocket parks,” curbs, gutters and street overlay.
*$1.6 million toward a $9 million network that will use highly treated wastewater from the city sewer plant for agricultural irrigation outside city limits and turf irrigation inside Healdsburg.
*$1 million for a down payment on the purchase of the old Foss Creek School site, which Healdsburg leases and converted to the city’s community center.
*$75,000 toward improvements at the railroad depot, which is planned as a transit center for future passenger rail service.
(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)