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Bureaucratic magic moves millions in Paso Robles 

With the reading of a single sentence, the four men sitting on the Paso Robles City Council (Fred Strong was absent) were transformed into a completely different governing body on Sept. 4. They wore the same clothes and bore the same features as their city council alter egos, but Nick Gilman, Ed Steinbeck, John Hammon, and chairman Duane Picanco had become the successor agency to the former redevelopment agency.

As such, they voted unanimously to accept a $3.5 million loan from the city’s general fund, enough to finance court-ordered projects that will bring downtown sidewalks, ramps, and public restrooms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the next breath, they reverted back to their roles as council members to authorize the same loan from the other end.

“If you can make any sense of all this, you’re a better man than I,” councilman/agency member Gilman said.

The city lost an ADA lawsuit in 2010 and has until Jan. 8, 2013, to finish upgrades. City Administrator Jim Throop explained that financing for the various projects was initiated through the sale of redevelopment bonds. But in December 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled to abolish all local agencies that controlled the resulting piles of money, including the Paso Robles Redevelopment Agency. Now the funds are in a sort of limbo—sitting in state coffers but earmarked for specific local projects.

Paso Robles can’t access its share until the state Department of Finance issues a “finding of completion,” which states that the successor agency has properly documented its assets, obligations, and tax liabilities. Throop doesn’t expect the state to act until sometime next spring, at which point the successor agency should be able to repay the city’s $3.5 million loan. Nothing is guaranteed, however, and the city could get stuck with the tab.

“I can’t say for certain what they’ll do, but we’re doing everything we can to make sure we follow the rules,” Throop said. “If they don’t issue [the finding of completion], they better have a good reason.”


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