El Dorado County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Briggs referred to the proposed Capital Southeast Connector road project as a “35-mile-long subdivision.” Beginning at Highway 5 in Elk Grove, skirting Rancho Cordova, brushing Folsom and then running through El Dorado Hills, the “connector” would merge with Highway 50 in the neighborhood of a newly built Silva Valley Interchange.
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That is the plan that has been on the drawing boards of several jurisdictions since 2006. Sacramento County, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, Elk Grove and El Dorado County are members of the Whiterock-Connector Joint Powers Authority that formed that year, though the idea for such a Sacramento bypass has been contemplated for decades.
As explained by Assistant County Counsel Trish Beck, the JPA “does not have any dedicated funds for this project,” and a number of “unresolved issues” need to be addressed. The two primary issues are determining El Dorado County’s “fair share” of the cost of construction and whether or not the county’s fair share should include credit for developing the Silva Valley Interchange.
The somewhat murky relationship between the county and the JPA drew attention last year when former supervisor Jack Sweeney challenged a perception that the JPA could exercise eminent domain proceedings over property owners in El Dorado County without the county’s involvement or authorization. In a related concern, several board members interpreted language in the JPA agreement suggesting the organization could “financially obligate a member jurisdiction without the consent of the member jurisdiction’s Board of Supervisors/City Council.”
Both of these issues prompted the board to approve a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting stating that the county would not allow any such limitations on its sovereignty and included an earlier request for an amendment of the JPA agreement clearly expressing that position. The JPA met Friday, and the intent of the board was to give District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco a portfolio to take to his first JPA meeting as El Dorado County’s representative. Former District 1 Supervisor John Knight represented the county at the agency throughout his four-year term.
The county’s piece of the Whiterock Connector project is limited to El Dorado Hills which comprises the county’s first supervisorial district — a bit under three miles altogether — plus the Silva Valley Interchange.
Beck concluded her presentation explaining that a financing plan on the JPA’s agenda represented “no obligation on any of its members including El Dorado County. The JPA can move on without any El Dorado County money,” she said and urged adoption of the resolution.
Briggs continued the point saying, “El Dorado County would like to see what the end product (financing plan) would look like and to know that the JPA won’t be throwing Mr. and Mrs. Smith off their property; and somewhere down the line, we want credit for Silva Valley.”
County Counsel Ed Knapp further clarified that the resolution created by his department to attach to a proposed amendment to the agreement includes the caveat that the JPA may not obligate its member entities to any future funding requirements.
At that point Mikulaco reprised earlier sentiments saying, “I want to make sure that everything on this side of the county line” remains under our control. The new supervisor discussed his mission to the JPA during a meeting with Mountain Democrat staff at his office Wednesday afternoon.
“Part of the funding mechanism is rather vague,” he said. “We just want to make sure we’re covered … Their people know what we want — preserving the right of El Dorado County to control of our jurisdiction.”
The relative merits of the project overall or the specific potential benefits to the county “are not the issue,” at this stage of its development, he noted, adding, “I inherited what’s already been done.” However, during Tuesday’s board discussion, District 3 Supervisor Brian Veerkamp added his voice to that of Briggs in asking about the realistic value versus the long-term costs to the county.
“We need to look hard at Silva Valley and the connector,” Briggs said. “Do we really want either of them or are we just going to have a 35 mile-long subdivision? I’m not convinced that this is good for our county, but I don’t want to get in their way.”
Executive director of the JPA, Tom Zlotkowski, addressed the three supervisors in attendance. Norma Santiago of District 5 and Ray Nutting of District 2 were out of town.
“We’re at a point in time when we’re approving documents, and we want to include your resolution. We’re in no way committing you regarding indebtedness or eminent domain,” Zlotkowski assured.
El Dorado County Auditor-Controller Joe Harn scolded the board Tuesday for what he called a “history of not cooperating with our neighbors. I urge that we continue to work with the JPA and participate (in this project which will) help a lot of people throughout the region.”
Sue Taylor of Camino expressed serious reservations about the project in general and potential financial risk to the county in particular. Citing the possibility of future “debt, debt, debt” to the county, Taylor finished her remarks calling for supervisors to “get out of this JPA.”
Briggs, Mikulaco and Veerkamp, however, all voted to send the resolution for the amendment with Mikulaco on Friday.
Contact Chris Daley at 530-344-5063 or [email protected] Follow @CDaleyMtDemo.