State legislators Noreen Evans and Wesley Chesbro have asked state transportation officials to help complete a delayed sidewalk that threatens the opening of the new Roseland Creek Elementary School.
Though construction of the $28 million school in west Santa Rosa is nearly completed, funding for the $417,000 sidewalk along Burbank Avenue is no longer available because of elimination of the city redevelopment agency.
Because of liability concerns, the city will not allow the school to open without a safe route for students.
The legislators asked the agency to allow the school to use $332,000 left over from an unrelated "Safe Routes" grant. That money, which funded the construction of a route on Water Trough Road just west of Sebastopol, would otherwise be sent back to the state.
"This proposal may be unconventional and one that has never been pursued before, but these are difficult times and we must be creative in looking for positive solutions to difficult problems," state Sen. Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Assemblyman Chesbro, D-Arcata, said in a letter sent to Caltrans Acting Director Malcolm Dougherty.
But Dougherty wrote back saying that such a move would violate the rules for awarding Safe Routes grants.
"While we appreciate the unusual circumstances faced by the county, we simply cannot establish a precedent that would undermine the integrity of the competitive grant program," Dougherty wrote.
He did, however, indicate that a supplemental allocation of funds could be awarded under the school's original Safe Routes grant.
Thomas O'Kane, deputy director of the county public works department, said the supplemental amount could be between $200,000 and $240,000, but that Caltrans has requested additional information justifying the need for more money.
"It doesn't quite get us to the amount we need, but it would be a nice chunk to help us get there," O'Kane said.
The county has spent about $650,000 from the original Safe Routes grant, with $264,000 used for installation of a traffic signal at Burbank Avenue and Sebastopol, $54,250 going toward tiger salamander mitigation credits, $30,000 for installation of street lighting and $1,200 for a right-of-way property acquisition.
More than $417,000 in city redevelopment funds had been promised for construction of a 5-foot-wide asphalt walkway along a mile-long stretch of Burbank Avenue from Sebastopol Road to Hearn Avenue. But the money was no longer available after Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies.
Located on 11 acres adjacent to Roseland Creek, the new school is designed to take in 400 to 500 children now crowded into two other Roseland School District elementary schools.
O'Kane said the county is also trying for transit development funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional transportation agency for the nine-county Bay Area.
All the additional bureaucratic steps are cutting close to the school's opening date of August. Construction of the sidewalk must begin at least 45 days before the school opens.
Ghilotti Construction Co., which won the bid to build the sidewalk, is waiting for the money to become available, O'Kane said.
"We're doing everything we can to get the money as soon as possible," he said. "I need to be under construction around the first of June."