Local News

Thursday, Feb 14 2013 06:04 PM

City: We always knew this freeway bill was coming

By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Bakersfield city staff received several phone calls Thursday from residents concerned that the reason the city now needs to borrow $270 million for highway projects is mismanagement.

Not true, said Rhonda Smiley, assistant to the city manager. Rather, a condition of the city getting federal money in the first place for Thomas Roads Improvement Program construction was that Bakersfield match 20 percent of those federal funds.

Smiley said city staff anticipated that in 2013 or 2014, they would need to start looking at sources to match the federal dollars.

People called City Hall after reading a story in Thursday's Californian about a presentation to the City Council Wednesday night on financing needs and options for TRIP projects.

"The concern was that the city was falling short on the planning, and the implication was therefore they mismanaged the funds that were given to us in the earmark," Smiley said. "People don't necessarily realize the local match part of it."

When former Congressman Bill Thomas secured the TRIP funding in 2005 for Bakersfield highway projects, including the Centennial Corridor, Bakersfield had to commit to matching 20 percent of the federal funds to cover the projects' costs.

Wednesday evening's presentation by city Finance Director Nelson Smith was an update, not a sudden call for alarm that the city was in a big, unanticipated bind.

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