Williams discusses exit with transportation commission

The Williams City Council may entertain breaking away from the Colusa County Transportation Commission and going it alone.

Unhappy with the way transportation funding is distributed among the members of the Colusa County Transportation Commission – a statutorily established, multi-jurisdictional governmental body composed of representatives from the County of Colusa and the cities of Williams and Colusa – Williams City Councilman Charles Bergson broached the topic of Williams’ dilapidated streets during council member reports at last Wednesday’s meeting.

After listing a number of projects the City of Williams had successfully undertaken in the past seven years, Bergson said that there was “nothing that this city does not have the capacity to attempt, take on, and accomplish,” with one notable exception: its roads.

The blame for Williams’ inability to address it’s crumbling streets falls upon shoulders of the Colusa County Transportation Commission, Bergson said.

On Monday, County Supervisor and Transportation Commissioner Kim Vann said that definitely wasn’t the case.

“Essentially, they’re just trying to pass the buck after not doing their own maintenance,” Vann said.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, Bergson noted that Williams hadn’t seen a major road reconstruction project “since at least 2006, and probably before that.”

Although the city has self-funded two comparatively minor roadway repair projects in the past couple years, Bergson said, big money is needed from the commission to reconstruct Williams’ major roadways.

While Bergson said that he didn’t want to “dismiss or diminish” the $3.5 million that the commission allocated for the city’s Marguerite Street project, he said that the commission had dropped the ball in terms of maintenance and repair of roads, particularly in the City of Williams – a responsibility he said was established in a joint powers agreement.

“The prior commission and prior council put in Marguerite Road (sic),” Bergson said. “It took them a couple years and $3.5 million. We’re appreciative of that fact, but the thing with Marguerite Road is that it’s a brand-new road for the future, and the existing roads we have are broken. It’s fine for the future, but putting in Marguerite Road is like giving us a brand new Cadillac, and we’re driving in a broke up Chevy. And we need to drive that Chevy every day. That’s their responsibility, and they’re not doing repair.”

Bergson said that representatives from the City of Williams had approached the commission on multiple occasions, seeking money for major roadway repair projects, and said they were turned down each time. While he was speaking on Thursday, Bergson beseeched former Williams councilman and current Colusa County Supervisor Kent Boes, who was in the audience, to ask “his contemporaries… to see if we can get our roads repaired.”

The Board of Supervisors, Bergson reasoned, has three seats on the six-member commission, while the cities of Colusa and Williams alternate between having one or two.

“Not to put Mr. Boes on the spot, but I’d like to ask Mr. Boes to ask the Commission to see what they can do about that, and report back to the council in a month,” Bergson said.  “My guess is… he’ll probably come back and say the same thing that the commission has told us for years, and staff and the council have bought for years: that Williams doesn’t do the paperwork, and there’s no money.”

Bergson said that the City of Williams not doing their paperwork “is not a valid reason,” and claimed that there is, in fact, money available. He also claimed that “according to the law” the Commission should be responsible for filing the paperwork “because they have the knowledge and expertise on staff.” Bergson pointed to work that has been done in Maxwell and Arbuckle, and claimed that the county handled all the paperwork for those communities.

“But when it comes to Williams, they won’t do it,” Bergson said.

On Monday, Vann essentially said that comparing Williams – an incorporated city with its own general fund and other revenue sources available for road repairs – to the unincorporated communities of Arbuckle and Maxwell was comparing apples to oranges.

“With Williams being an incorporated city, and with him being someone who ran for office and was previously a city manager, he knows that’s the City of Williams’ job. Just because they can’t budget well and plan ahead, doesn’t mean they can blame it on the Colusa County Transportation Commission,” Vann said. “We couldn’t do their paperwork if we wanted to – we don’t have any of their internal information.”

Also on Monday, Boes said it was unclear to him what supposedly “available” funding Bergson was referring to.

“When Chuck was talking about the funds that are there and do exist, and the city just isn’t getting them – I’m not clear on what funds he’s talking about,” Boes said.

Boes also noted that the Colusa County Transportation Commission was statutorily established, and not governed by a joint powers agreement.

“The JPA he’s referring to is the transit agency – the Commission is on the other side of the house,” Boes said. “The Colusa County Transit Agency (CCTA) is the JPA, and all that does is preside over the Colusa County Transit. The people up there are the same, but they are two separate entities.”

At the conclusion of the nearly 20-minute long discussion, which was not agendized, the Williams City Council agreed by consensus to explore other options – namely, dropping out of the Colusa County Transportation Commission and handling their own roads money.

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Brian Pearson is the Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects include reporting on local government and the newly feature sports page. To contact Brian about this article, or for future articles, please email him at brian@colusacountynews.net