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A Look Ahead For Calaveras County

Angels Camp met a lot of its goals last year, but success in 2004 will hinge in large part on what the state does, according to Angels City Administrator Tim Shearer. “We had a stellar year. Things went very well,” is how Shearer summed up 2003.

Many of the city´s achievements involved Angels Camp´s infrastructure. The trouble-plagued sewer plant expansion and upgrade finally began operating successfully and has not had any major problems the past few months, Shearer said.

Other completed projects include the Finnegan Lane water loop that improved water flows for many residents in the southern part of town known as the Annex, upgrades to the Park Avenue and Lee Lane water lines, the Altaville sewer lift station, and expansion of the water treatment facility.

City officials also completed implementation of impact fees on new development to cover costs of increased fire and police service and park improvements.

Police, fire and road projects also received a big boost when the Transient Occupancy Tax, the fee charged to overnight visitors in the city, was raised form 6 percent to 10 percent in May. “That received overwhelming support in the election and is now put in place,” Shearer said.

The city Fire Department received the lion´s share of the new TOT funds in 2003, getting a raise in its budget from $146,932 to $263,639.

Angels Camp City Council members also hired the city´s first paid fire chief, welcoming Scott Kenley to the ranks in April. In October the council approved the hiring of two paid, full-time firefighters to augment the department´s volunteer staff.

In looking at the new year, Shearer said a lot of the city´s future will depend on what happens with the state government´s budget crisis.

The state Legislature ended its session without any guarantees it would backfill the loss of vehicle license fee revenue normally received by cities and counties.

For some cities, that makes up 40 percent of their budget, and they face layoffs and some are even talking of disincorporation.

That revenue is only 10 percent of Angels Camp´s budget, though, and the city has healthy reserves, Shearer said. “We can weather this storm and see what happens,” he said.

Any consideration of cuts wouldn´t be made until city officials start reviewing the 2004-05 budget in the spring, and they should have a better idea then if the backfill will be paid, Shearer said. Other projects slated for this year should go ahead as planned, no matter what. The next expansion phase of the wastewater treatment plant is set to begin in 2004.

Council members already approved and budgeted money for repair of the historic “chicken ladder,” the wooden walkway that runs up the side of Hardscrabble Street.

And the TOT will lift the city´s annual road improvement budget from $250,000 to $350,000, Shearer said. That´s in addition to a $300,000 grant Angels Camp recently received to put in a sidewalk and other improvements on Stanislaus Avenue between Highway 49 and Mark Twain Elementary School to provide a safer route to the campus for students.

Other projects include continuation with the state-required update of the city´s General Plan, and the addition of a restroom at Gateway Park, the recreation area that straddles the border of the Angel Oaks and Greenhorn Creek subdivisions.

Besides continued cooperation with the county, the County Visitors Bureau and surrounding fire districts, Shearer believes many other positive developments will surface in the new year. “I´m sure there´s a lot more things on our plate for 2004,” he said.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Craig Koscho:For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com.