http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/08/15/meeting-talks-money-for-an-incorporated-alamo


Danville Express

Newsfront - August 15, 2008

Meeting talks money for an incorporated Alamo

Analysts explain they find a town to be feasible financially

by Meghan Neal

Will Alamo become a town? According to a recently released financial study, it's quite possible. With this forward step toward incorporation, Alamo folks are taking a closer look at what the change would mean.

Residents had a chance to get some of their questions answered at a community meeting last Thursday at the Creekside Church in Alamo attended by about 200 people. After officials presented the fiscal study results, a Q&A was held to discuss the report.

"Why are we not talking about the costs to us - the families of Alamo - and how we are going to pay?" one resident asked.

The report showed that a township would have no cost to Alamo taxpayers; California state law prohibits incorporation from raising taxes to balance the books and any future tax increase would require a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Still, a potential tax hike is a concern that comes up time and time again.

"We can't afford it - I don't care what the report said," said Virgie Jones, 60-year Alamo resident and longtime incorporation opponent, in an interview. She said the study did not change her mind about incorporation.

"We're going to come up with taxes somewhere along the line."

It's not just the opponents that question the advantages of incorporating. Many residents at the meeting wanted to know what quantifiable benefits the people of Alamo would see from incorporation.

Gary Thompson, a municipal financial analyst with Winzler & Kelley, author of the study conducted for the Local Agency Formation Commission, addressed this point at the meeting.

"An time you take control of your own destiny at the local level, it's a good thing," he said "The county has a whole county to take care of."

The first step toward establishing local control is drafting a town general plan, which the town of Alamo would have 30 months to do after incorporation.

The general plan should reflect the residents' view of what the new town of Alamo should look like. This answers concerns from some residents that incorporation would mean a greater risk of development: Most likely, a booming metropolis isn't what anyone in the community would have in mind.

The potential town of Alamo would require a town staff of about 10 employees, according to the report. However, the organizational structure would actually be determined by the city council and city manager upon incorporation.

Some residents said 10 people didn't seem like enough to run a town. Thompson explained that Alamo would be a "contract city" with virtually every service contracted out to either the county or private companies.

Law enforcement would be provided through the county sheriff's office. Fire protection, some planning, and code enforcement would also be contracted out. Town leaders would include five city council members, five planning commissioners, a city manager, city clerk and city attorney.

Increased bureaucracy is often a concern heard by Alamo residents mulling over incorporation.

"I don't care what the study said, I don't want another government. I don't want another bureaucracy. I don't want a city hall," said Jones.

Advocates believe that being able to take issues straight to local leaders would be simpler and faster than navigating the red tape of the county.

After hearing a slew of positive responses from officials at the meeting, some residents wanted to know if incorporation is essentially inevitable at this point. What could cause LAFCO to vote against it next month? some asked.

Executive officer of Contra Costa LAFCO, Lou Ann Texeira, said she couldn't speak for the seven members of the commission. But she did point out that there are other factors to consider before the vote, which will be held Sept. 18 at the Creekside Church, 1350 Danville Blvd.

Tony Carnemolla, a leader of the anti-incorporation group that's been relatively quiet up to this point, said if LAFCO votes yes, opponents will become more active.

"I don't know why they want to incorporate. Things have been going fine for years and years," he said.

If LAFCO approves the move there's one more major hurdle to cross. A majority of Alamo residents would need to vote in favor of incorporation in March 2009. One other issue will be on the ballot: the Measure D school parcel tax, which failed in the June election.

There will be another opportunity for public comment on incorporation at the Sept. 18 LAFCO meeting, which begins at 4:30 p.m. The study is also open to public review until Aug. 27. It can be viewed at www.contracostalafco.org. Comments should be directed to Lou Ann Texeira, Executive Officer, Contra Costa LAFCO, 651 Pine St., Sixth Floor, Martinez 94553, or faxed to 646-1228.

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