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Orange County

A Strapped Placentia Digs Deep to Find OnTrac Funds

June 18, 2004|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Pushed to the edge of bankruptcy, Placentia reached deeper into its thin reserves this week to continue funding an ambitious project to lower busy rail lines downtown.

The city, which has already sold park land, tapped reserves and even considered disbanding its police force, agreed to postpone a computer upgrade at City Hall and eliminate a staff job to free up enough money to fund the project through the sum- mer.

The city hopes to receive $14 million in emergency federal funding to keep its OnTrac rail-lowering project moving forward. The money is authorized in a bill being considered by Congress. OnTrac also has asked for a $5.8-million loan from the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Placentia council members approved the city's $29-million budget this week, including $100,000 to pay for lobbying and day-to-day operations for OnTrac, a joint-powers authority created in 2000.

Council members Scott P. Brady and Constance Underhill voted against the budget because of OnTrac's expenses.

The city has drastically cut the salary for OnTrac Executive Director Chris Becker, formerly the city's public works direc- tor, in the past year as state funds dried up. Other consultant and lobbyist costs were trimmed.

The $460-million rail project would rebuild 11 intersections along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line, which bisects Placentia's aging downtown.

About five miles of the track would be pushed below the street surface to reduce noise and improve traffic flow.

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