At the July 19 Los Banos City Council meeting, the council approved the recommended regional street projects for the 2023 Measure V Implementation Plan and accepted the report on how the city spent a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant.

The four-person council (Councilmember Douglas Begonia, Jr. was absent) approved the three recommended regional street projects to be incorporated in the Measure V 2023 Implementation Plan.

Measure V, a one-half-cent transportation sales tax, is a measure that was passed in 2016 to fund transportation maintenance and improvements. The proposed regional street projects for 2023 and beyond are: The Pacheco Boulevard and I Street Intersection Improvement Project at an estimated cost of $950,000, construction within the next three years; The Mercy Springs Road and Vineyard Drive Intersection Improvement Project at an estimated $4,000,000, construction within the next four years; and The Mercy Springs Road and Scripps Drive Intersection Improvement Project at an estimated $4,200,000, construction within the next five years.

“All three of these projects are part of our Transportation Master Plan that was adopted back in 2010 and all are also listed as priority projects,” City Engineer and Public Works Director Nirorn Than said.

Before passing the resolution, Councilmember Deborah Lewis asked for a clarification regarding the other projects currently approved for Measure V funding and their current progress, specifically the regional path along Pacheco Boulevard to the Merced College Los Banos Campus.

Mayor Llanez said that he didn’t feel it would be safe for bicyclists without a physical barrier protection. Councilmember Jones added that it would be money better spent on sidewalks in places elsewhere in the city that lacked them.

City staff then provided the council with a closeout report on the $500,000 received by the city from the Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Grant funds enabled the city to improve code enforcement since August 2020. Code enforcement efforts during that time included the issuing of more than 4,000 violations and the processing of 370 abandoned vehicles. During her presentation the city’s Community and Economic Director Stacy Souza Elms showed pictures of before and after using the funds.

Several Items were passed in the consent agenda. Among them was the acceptance of the Ag Sports Complex Restroom/ Concession Building project with a total cost of $526,402.04 as completed.

Also passed on the consent agenda was the award of $495,000 with a 10 percent contingency awarded to Francis Electric LLC for the synchronization of traffic signals on Pacheco Blvd. The synchronization would allow for better traffic flow and speedier commutes.

An item on the consent agenda that received a lot of praise from councilmembers was the entering of professional services agreement between the city and the Mark Thomas company for design services regarding the Mercey Springs Road and Vineyard Drive Intersection.

Pulled from the consent agenda by Councilmember Deborah Lewis was the approval for Pro Group Painting to do a smooth stucco finish on city hall’s exterior. Lewis asked why the painting contractor couldn’t apply another coat of paint instead of spending $87,454 more on a stucco finish, which she thought was “excessive”

City Engineer Than explained that a smooth stucco finish would be easier to clean and would last longer than a new coat of paint. In the vote Lewis voted against the item while Councilmembers Brett Jones, Kenneth Lambert and Mayor Paul Llanez voted for approval.

Among the reports toward the end of the evening, City Manager Josh Pinheiro thanked Joe Heim, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department, for the new Los Banos Recreation Guide and for all of the events happening at the community center.

After Pinheiro’s report, Mayor Llanez provided a report on Peninsula Clean Energy. (In October 2020 the Los Banos City Council voted to join Peninsula Clean Energy to bring less expensive, cleaner electricity to the residents of Los Banos.)

Llanez said PCE has excess funds, and the company is looking at two options as to how to rebate those funds. The first is to give it back to the customers and the second is to give it to the jurisdictions which PCE serves.

Llanez said the funds should go back to “our citizens, our residents who spent the money and who should have it back.”

Councilmember Jones thanked city staff for making city tree trimming a priority and for making the Vineyard Drive and Mercey Springs Road intersection a priority.

Councilmember Lewis thanked city employees Rachelle Ciuffo and Brenda Geary for their longtime service to the city.

Mayor Llanez commended Sergeant Ivan Mendez for his work on code enforcement.

The Westside Express