OROVILLE — The Butte County Board of Supervisors gave the approval for a $114 million infrastructure plan to go out for bid and also received a presentation from Public Works Director Josh Pack regarding an update on its five-year master plan.
The presentation was broken down into various categories such as funding and a list of major projects the county is looking at to bring its infrastructure up to modern standards.
Four of the five supervisors approved of the plan with Supervisor Bill Connelly being the sole no vote.
The master plan covers projects and programs through 2028 that are directly related to county infrastructure which has taken a large hit thanks to a series of major disasters undergone by Butte County like wildfires and the Oroville Dam spillway breach in 2017.
Many of the projects addressed in the master plan presented on Tuesday were directly related to the Camp Fire as well as the North Complex fires.
During the presentation, a list of upcoming projects was provided that will be prioritized for the 2024/2025 fiscal year. These projects included the following:
• Disaster recovery for both the Camp Fire and North Complex fires
• The Ord Ferry Road Bridge
• Pavement preservation
• An expansion to the Neal Road Recycling and Waste Facility
• Road safety projects
Earlier this year, the board approved a streamlined method for approving projects and sending them out to bid by essentially letting the Public Works Department advertise for bids without the individual approval of each project. Pack said this method has saved the county potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as staff time.
“This greatly improved our efficiency without any impacts on transparency or oversight,” Pack said.
In 2023, the county wrapped up multiple major road projects including the restoration of Skyway and other repairs including Miners Ranch, Forbestown and Lower Wyandotte roads.
Additionally, Pack announced that his department will be reintroducing a chip seal program done in-house for the first time in a decade. The previous program had to come to an end because of a lack of funding. Pack added that the issue with this program is that it will require additional crew time and be added to an already long list of projects.
Supervisor Connelly said that he would prefer that the chip seal work be contracted out. Toward the end of the item’s discussion, Connelly said he chose not to vote yes on the item because he wanted to speak with Pack more about the chip seal program.
“I lived through that chip seal program prior and if it’s legal, I think you should go to bid,” Connelly said.
Pack said that would likely come with a significantly higher cost but said he could consider that going forward.
The majority of funding for these projects comes from numerous grants at both the state and federal levels and are designated for county infrastructure.
There are two types of revenue specific to the infrastructure master plan: restrictive and discretionary.
Discretionary revenue refers to funding that the county has some level of flexibility in spending for various projects related to the funding stream. Restrictive funding comes with the caveat of needing to be spent in very specific ways.
In total, about $41 million is going toward projects in the 2024/2025 fiscal year alone.
It was noted during the presentation that roughly $45 million is expected to come in from Senate Bill 1, widely known as the gas tax, from 2023-2028 which provides money for road maintenance and is considered discretionary, though there is a section that requires that the money goes toward infrastructure, Pack said.
With the gas tax propping up much of the county’s road repair revenue, there are some concerns Pack aired during his presentation regarding its potential to see a decline based on other state legislation.
Specifically, the state and federal governments have also been pushing for more electric vehicles to help offset potentially disastrous environmental dangers like climate change but at a local level currently, this will likely mean a significant drop in revenue from the gas tax over time.
“We have concerns with this,” Pack said. “…Especially in the past couple of years, there has been a massive push to the electrification of vehicles, to building charging stations and we’ve seen a significant increase in the sale of electric vehicles. And that’s all fantastic for the environment and something we strongly support, but that said we rely on the sale of fossil fuels to maintain our roads and infrastructure. So they are not aligned policies.”
Because of this, Pack said the department plans to set aside between $11-12 million as a contingency for future projects should there be a drop in gas tax revenue.
“If it’s not as bad as it could potentially be, then we will reinvest that money back into the program in future years,” Pack said.
The Butte County Board of Supervisors generally meets at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at its chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. Meetings are free and open to the public.
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