Kern County Goes All Out To Land Maintenance Facility

Sep 27th, 2010 | Posted by

In the Sunday Open Thread I mentioned that Kern County could get thousands of jobs from a high speed rail maintenance hub were it located at Wasco or Shafter. Perhaps as a reflection of the importance of those jobs in a county with a 15.7% unemployment rate, Kern County is working hard to land the facility, starting by negotiating with landowners whose property will likely be needed for it:

Government and business officials here have scarcely begun building support for Kern’s two bids, while Fresno has already won significant community and political support through public outreach, lobbying and site tours for members of the rail authority.

But in negotiations taking place behind the scenes, Kern officials are trying to get the properties in Shafter and Wasco ready for purchase, which could make them easier to develop….

Land ownership could give Kern’s bids an important advantage over Fresno’s, which is owned by dozens of different parties. A single owner controls the Shafter property; three control the one in Wasco.

Although the authority has eminent domain authority and could force owners of the Fresno County property to sell, a spokeswoman said authority members would rather avoid a seizure, which could take extra time and present complications.

Fresno County officials, including Supervisor Henry Perea, are keeping quiet on the question of land ownership, but indicated to the Bakersfield Californian that they expected things to go smoothly – “no hold-ups, no hang-ups” as Perea said – but that is primarily because Fresno County has $25 million they can spend to help convince the landowners of the proposed Fresno maintenance hub location to sell. Kern County doesn’t have any such funding, but is looking to scrounge together $10 to $15 million, possibly from state transportation funds.

I’m agnostic on where this facility goes, but it is good to see that local officials there fully understand the importance of HSR to their economic future – as opposed to other local leaders who seem to act as if we’re not in the depths of a recession caused by an overdependence on oil.

  1. Castle Expert
    Sep 27th, 2010 at 23:14

    Fresno County does not have $ 25 million dollars to spend on land purchases for a heavy mainteance facility. Robert, they our now asking the people of Fresno to vote for a new measure C to acquire this money. The money they had promised in their heavy maintenace facility to the authority has already been ear marked for other transporatation projects in Fresno County and cannot be used to purchase land for a heavy maintenace facility. At the last COG meeting mayor Swearing was told know that these funds could not be used.

    Please stop perpetrating this myth that Fresno has this money. They do not! If they did why are they having to go back to the voters and ask? I encourage all readers to go the the Fresno Cog if you do not believe this be the case. The Fresno proposal is a bunch of politicans who cannot deliever what they are saying and are hoping that if they repeat this lie enough it will become a reality. On top of all this the Jarvis tax payers are planning on bringing on a suit against the city of Fresno if they try and use any of this measure C money. One law suit would delay Fresno Mainteance city proposal buy at least a year. Finally, this new bond measure being proposed is going to need a super majority. The Heavy Mainteance facility needs to be built in an area that can be deliever it quickly and without controversy. Why would anyone want to encourage emminet domain when there are it least three prime locations for a heavy mainteace facility that do not require these heavy handed tactics.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    What are those three prime locations? Merced, Wasco, Shafter?

    BMF From San Diego Reply:

    Nevertheless, I support a Fresno location. The opportunities and growth expected in Fresno provides a much better labor pool than the other bergs, which are more remote and have smaller pools.

    Further, Fresno will offer much greater connectivity to the system than Merced – it will have more stops per day and be operationally more effecient.

    rafael Reply:

    This is for the heavy maintenance facility. Trainsets are sent there once or twice a year for non-destructive analysis of wheels, axles plus inspection of all traction, control and coupling systems plus pre-emptive replacement of brake pads, pantograph bars etc.

    The level of daily service at a nearby station is completely irrelevant. So is the issue of the labor pool: there are exactly ZERO qualified HSR mechanics anywhere in California right now. Prior expertise is freight rail maintenance is not all that relevant, every new hire is going to need extensive specialized training. Besides, people have been known to move house for a good job.

    BMF From San Diego Reply:

    Nevertheless, much more synerrgy is had at Fresno than elsewhere in the Valley, except perhaps Sacramento and maybe Bakersfield. Where do you think it would be easiest to attract qualified personnel?

    Additionally, a train is a train is a train. What makes HSR a bit different will be traction power vs. ordinary trains. And, we have systems in California and elsewhere that use electricity.

    Jack In Fresno Reply:

    Ahh Castle glad to see your still around.

    It’s not going to happen. Fresno has learned from loosing Childrens Hospital, The UC, and Running Horse. Were not going to loose this one.

    Paul H. Reply:

    The Measure C Amendment #1 will be voted on by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on Thursday, September 30th, and only needs a majority. I say its going to pass with every board member in favor of the Amendment. Sorry Castle, but Fresno has the HMF in the bag. It’s ours with the $25 million on the table which will be happening thursday. The money that the $25 million that had been ‘earmarked for other transportation projects’ was railroad consolidation, which isn’t going to happen in Fresno because of its $800+ million price tag. So, Fresno has about $100 million to allocate to different projects depending on County Boards Amendment votes. This is where the $25 million is coming from.

    Castle Expert Reply:

    Paul, more propaganda from Fresno unbeleivable. The Council of Fresno County goverments (COG) will hold a public hearing this Thursday to discuss an amendement to the Measure C tax expenditure that would allow the transfer of $ 25,000,000 in funding from the 2006 measure. If this amendment is passed it still has to go before the voters. And it will need to pass by 2/3 vote.

    This amendment is improper because the proposed relocation of $ 25 milion in funding from Measure C’s alternative transporatation program to a newly created Measure C High Speed rail Facilitites program is not authorized by Measure C committee and goes directly against the plain language of the measure.

    Again the Fresno propaganda machine is at work but is not based on facts. Does anyone care to give me the odds of whether the tax payers in Fresno County will allow $ 25 million in transporation funding approved for other projects to now be used to assist in locating a heavy maintieance facility. A 2/3 threshold is very difficult number to achieve for anything and I wonder how the other cities in Fresno County such as Sanger, Hanford and Kings County feel about projects which they have been waiting for 4 years suddenly see funding which they were counting on being take away. If this is what Fresno people are saying the HMF is in the bag I do not understand your logic. If I were an authority member I would want as much certainlty as possible about where to locate such an important piece.

    datacruncher Reply:

    I’m curious where Castle has read or heard that the $25 million needs to go to the voters because I have looked to verify that and cannot.

    Since Castle has repeated that public vote comment several times I decided to try to look up the process to amend the Measure C expenditure plan for Fresno to use the $25 million.

    Fresno County’s Measure C is under the Fresno County Transportation Authority which was created in Division 15 of the state PUC code. The process to amend its expenditure plan is also in the state PUC code in this section:

    Section 142260 lays out the spending plan amendment process. I see nothing in there requiring a public vote or approval by 2/3s of the county voters to amend the expenditure plan.

    As I read it (as a layperson), the expenditure plan can be amended by the FCTA by holding a public hearing process and then adopting a resolution.

    The Section also says the amendment must then be approved by the Fresno County COG, Fresno County Board of Supervisors and “by a majority of the cities constituting a majority of the population residing in the incorporated areas of the county.”

    Since nothing refers to individual county voters outside the cities (just the BOS), I take the city approval section as referring to the city councils representing the cities not the voters living in those cities.

    The city of Fresno is roughly 45% of the county population, so the amendment would only need a couple of other cities to also agree (actually it might only need Clovis’ approval to pass the majority population mark). My guess is that other cities agreeing will not be difficult since most of the cities are part of the Fresno Works coalition pursuing the HMF or have already passed resolutions in favor of the HMF.

    While a public vote for advisory purposes might be something that a person mentioned should be taken, I see nothing (unless I missed it) in the state PUC code that says the amendment HAS to go to a public vote. It is just a vote by various government bodies.

    If Castle Expert has a different source (with a legal reference/legal opinion to confirm it not just some individual’s opinion) saying Fresno County does need to take a public vote on the $25 million I’d honestly like to read it.

    Otherwise I see no public vote needed and no 2/3s requirement. It appears to me that with a few votes by various city and county governing bodies, their amendment for the $25 million can be accomplished.

    I don’t know why Hanford and Kings County are mentioned by Castle, they are not participants in Measure C. They have never had a say in the spending and don’t pay the tax, the money stops at the Fresno County line.

    Paul H. Reply:

    $25m approved to bring high-speed rail facility to Fresno Co.

    Castle, take a read of the well-done counter post above by datacruncher, then click on the link here in my post, read that, and come on back with something new to post here.

    StevieB Reply:

    The Fresno Council of Governments vote creates $25M high-speed rail account.

    The money would come from an amendment to the Extension Expenditure Plan of Measure C, Fresno County’s half-cent sales tax. Under the amendment, $7,068,023 budgeted for the expenditure plan’s Alternative Transportation Program would be transferred to the High-Speed Rail Facilities Program while $18 million in future Measure C funds would also be devoted to the new account.

  2. morris brown
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 11:19

    Well the following article link, ought to worth a couple of new threads in which Robert can dismiss all anti HSR issues being brought up.

    Tea Party Republicans Want to Snuff Obama’s High Speed Rail, Big Rail Might Beat Them To The Kill

    lyqwyd Reply:

    didn’t Robert already post an article on the same subject?

    Peter Reply:

    You’re assuming that Morris pays any attention to what goes on on the blog. He just spams-and-leaves.

    mgimbel Reply:

    Even a mouse could’ve figured out those associated with the Tea Party would be against high-speed rail, Morris. Your incompetence to find a legitimate threat to the development high-speed rail are quite humorous. In order to kill the project, Meg Whitman would either (A) convince a Democratic Legislature to kill the project, or (B) put it up on the ballot for people to vote on again. The worst she can do is throw study after study at it.

  3. Andre Peretti
    Sep 28th, 2010 at 16:40

    France (and other European countries) developped passenger rail and neglected freight, and this is now coming back to haunt them. Western Europe has become Truckland. The Swiss have been wiser and invested in both, and the quality of life in Switzerland owes a lot to that choice.
    You have the most efficient freight rail system in the world. Keep it that way.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The Swiss have been wiser and invested in both, and the quality of life in Switzerland owes a lot to that choice.

    Unfortunately for them, Switzerland is adjacent to Berlusconiland. (Like Breugelland, but without the redeeming values.)

    Andre Peretti Reply:

    Yes, but everyday thousands of Italian and German trucks bypass Switzerland and drive through truck-friendly France.

    Anthony Reply:

    Having driven for two of the largest carriers in America, I can tell you stuff only moves by freight depending on need. In other words things for Black Friday don’t move by train…. If you need something inside of 36 hours it will go by truck. I can cover 600+ miles easy in a truck in 10 hour driving shift. I have taken the US Mail from Los Angeles to Florida in 3 days, try that in a freight train, won’t happen.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    This is true: the freight railroads in the US compete on cost, not travel time. Coal and containers go by trains; stuff that needs to be in on time goes by truck. As a result, rail has a 37% mode share of ton-miles in the US and a 4% share of the value of the goods carried.

  4. datacruncher
    Oct 1st, 2010 at 10:37

    As I think about the potential Shafter HMF location, behind the scene politics will probably make the selection process into a 3-way race.

    The Shafter site is currently owned by Paramount Farming. That is billionaire Stewart Resnick’s company. Also, HSR board member Fran Florez is the former mayor of Shafter.

    I think we will see the final 3 HMF sites come down to Shafter, Fresno and Merced/Castle.

    After that, who knows what will happen for final selection.

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