The Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury released a report last week that finds the cities in Stanislaus County are implementing Measure L funds as intended.
However the jury report did indicate that while the city of Ceres has not been posting an informational sign at project sites funded by Measure L, the websites of Ceres, Patterson, and Turlock contained no Measure L information posted and none were aware that each city website is required to post up-to-date information on Measure L projects for reasons of transparency. The panel suggested that since Measure L is new that it “expects some bumps along the road for local jurisdictions in the first few years.”
City Manager Toby Wells said the city had indeed posted information on Measure L funded projects, it was deemed insufficient. He said overall the report was positive for the cities examined.
The report titled, “Is Measure L Measuring Up?” looked to see if the 25-year half-cent sales tax dollars generated from Measure L are being spent were they were guided. The Grand Jury opened an investigation after reading stories, opinion pieces, and letters in local newspapers and online sources questioning if projects were happening. The conclusion is that “local jurisdictions were in design stages, accruing allocations before starting roadwork, or waiting to find available contractors” and that cities are implementing Measure L “as promised to Stanislaus County residents.”
Measure L funds are dispersed by the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) to regional county and transit projects, and transportation improvements in the nine cities. An oversight committee was a component of Measure L to review an independent fiscal audit of expenditures.
The report chose to only look at the cities of Ceres, Patterson, and Turlock and not the remaining six. The explanation given was based on location, relationship to other cities, city dynamics, and population. Patterson was chosen as one of the fastest growing cities in the county while Turlock is the second largest city. Ceres is representative of smaller communities in the surrounding areas. Each of these cities has increasing transportation needs and issues. Wells said it was because those cities do not individually have an independent oversight committee like the one set up countywide.
Ceres received $1.74 million in Measure L funds during the 2017-18 fiscal year and was complaint in its use. Specifically the city performed an overlay of part of Mitchell and Service roads, slurry sealed many residential streets; and made traffic management improvements at intersections. Turlock is reconstructing West Main Street and will do the same for Golden State Boulevard. Patterson overlayed Sperry and Las Palmas avenues; and slurry sealed streets.
“Local jurisdictions are the big winners by the passage of Measure L,” the grand jury report noted. “Cities that have gone years with no or very little access to general funds for transportation projects such as street and road maintenance, traffic management, and bike and pedestrian upgrades, now are reaping the benefits of the Measure L special transportation sales tax. Long-awaited projects can be planned, implemented and completed, improving a city’s appearance and attractiveness. In addition, city residents can see the extra one-half cent sales tax increase at work.”