Friday, July 27, 2007

Donation lifts Arden Arcade cityhood bid

A last-minute donation from Citrus Heights has given the Arden Arcade incorporation drive a push, but whether cityhood backers can keep the effort in motion remains to be seen. Today, proponents of Arden Arcade cityhood are scheduled to meet with Sacramento's Local Agency Formation Commission -- the local body charged with drawing political boundaries and handling the incorporation of new cities -- to hash out a critical contract that may make or break the chances of a cityhood vote making the November 2008 ballot.

On July 19, the Citrus Heights City Council directed staff to donate $10,000 to the group's incorporation effort. The money came after the group missed a key July 1 deadline to come up with a deposit of about $28,000 to fund fiscal and environmental studies needed before the cityhood issue could be put to a vote.

But the studies can't start until a funding agreement is signed that spells out how the costly Environmental Impact Review and Comprehensive Financial Analysis will be paid for, said Peter Brundage, LAFCO executive director. "Time is critical," Brundage said. "It's important to get the studies under way, we're already two months behind." The studies are expected to take six to eight months.

"We'll make our best efforts, but that's provided they can continue making the payments as expected," he said. Joel Archer, chairman of the incorporation effort, was more upbeat. "We're excited to continue on with the process," Archer said. "It's a long road, and it'll continue to be a long road, but we're excited that people and other cities want to help us succeed."

On Wednesday, Brundage confirmed that cityhood backers provided a check for $11,889, the balance of the deposit. But backers didn't bring the signed funding agreement, instead setting up today's meeting so their attorneys could review it. Archer said he expected the meeting to be routine. "We plan to have it final on Friday," he said.

Brundage said he wasn't sure. "(Archer) said he had some questions (about the agreement), but he didn't tell me what they were," Brundage said. "So we'll see." In order to keep the studies going, the consultants will need an average of $25,000 per month, Brundage said. The total cost could be about $300,000, with the incorporation backers' share expected to be about $200,000 and the LAFCO share about $100,000.

The terms of the funding agreement say LAFCO will be paid on the first day of each month, according to the document. If cityhood backers fail to pay within five days after that, the agreement says, LAFCO can cease work on the project, terminating it completely if the payment is not made in 30 days. Archer said he's confident his group can raise the money. "There's enough of a pipeline," he said. "It's never a certainty, but it's enough to believe that we can keep going."

Archer refused to say how much money the incorporation effort has on hand, only that he "believes it's sufficient," to carry the committee to a November 2008 cityhood vote. Citrus Heights, which became a city in 1997, was the first of three cities in Sacramento County to incorporate over the last decade. It donated money to the incorporation efforts of Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova, which became cities in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Rancho Cordova has donated $25,000 to the Arden Arcade incorporation effort, said city spokeswoman Alexandra Miller. Elk Grove has not donated any money, a city spokeswoman there said.

Arden Arcade cityhood petitioners first went before the Citrus Heights City Council in March, when they asked for $35,000. The council unanimously denied that request. Mayor Jeff Slowey said his change of heart was due to a better developed presentation by the group and a clearer idea of their financial picture. Cityhood, he said, is "worth a vote of the people."

Councilman Steve Miller agreed. Though disappointed by the group's so-far bleak financial situation, he said he saw many similarities between Citrus Heights and the potential city-to-be. "With Citrus Heights, the deck was stacked against us, and it took a long time to get to the vote," he said. "But I truly believe we're a success story."


No comments: