EL CERRITO -- A couple of members of a committee that oversees a 2008 sales tax measure are protesting the City Council's use of funds from the measure for purposes other than street repairs.
Thomas Miller and Lynne Kessler of the Citizen Street Oversight Committee say the council overstepped by diverting money from the permanent half-cent sales tax away from fixing potholes and paving streets to doing traffic safety, landscaping and other improvements at specific sites.
For example, the city used Measure A money to re-stripe the street, install new signs and build a railing, among other improvements at Arlington Boulevard and Brewster Drive after a woman was hit and killed by a cyclist at the intersection in 2012, according to Jerry Bradshaw, interim senior engineer for the city.
Bradshaw noted that Measure A was passed to pay for a backlog of street maintenance and repairs after a survey determined that El Cerrito streets were among the worst in the region.
Thirty-year bonds were sold based on income from the measure to repair or resurface about 70 percent of the city's streets over four years, lifting El Cerrito streets into the top tier in the Bay Area, according to the city website.
About 60 percent of the tax revenue is being used to service the bonds, leaving the rest for other uses, Bradshaw said.
However, Kessler, the interim director, said her committee was "pretty stunned" when members found out in September that some of the money was going to uses other than asphalt paving, concrete gutters and curbs and striping.
She said the committee will hold a special meeting on Jan. 27 "to verify the diversion of funds."
"The funds were diverted for a good project, but against the Measure A specifications that it has to be used for street repairs," Kessler said.
Miller said he was unhappy with the condition of city streets when he moved to El Cerrito in 1993. He said he was an early supporter of Measure A and joined the oversight committee in part to make sure the money was used exclusively to repave streets and fix potholes and curbs.
He said the city has made a number of "minor attempts" to apply Measure A money to other uses while he's been on the committee, including disposing of trailers that were used to house city offices before the current City Hall opened in 2008.
"Measure A was presented as a source of funds, 100 percent of which would go to pay for pavement, gutters and curbs with no administrative costs at all," Miller said. "No doubt what has been done is entirely legal but it does not conform with voter intent."
Bradshaw, the retired public works director who is serving as a liaison between the council and the committee, said there is apparently a disagreement over the Measure A wording that appeared on the ballot.
The measure states that the money is to be used "to improve neighborhood streets; enhance road safety citywide by fixing potholes; maintaining, repairing and repaving streets; sealing cracks; improving handicap ramps, crosswalks, bicycle lanes; and maintaining road markings and signage."
It received 71 percent of the vote in exceeding the supermajority needed to pass.
"It was written fairly broadly, although the primary motivation was to fix the pavement," Bradshaw said. "There is no bait and switch (going on), it is exactly what was offered (to the voters)."