Council Votes to Distribute Funds for Diverse Projects

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The Berkeley City Council voted Tuesday night on allocating funds to a variety of projects for the mid-year budget.

Although the majority of the council voted in favor of the progressive bloc's plan to distribute funds, Councilmember Betty Olds abstained from voting and Councilmember Diane Woolley voted in opposition.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said yesterday that several important projects will receive additional funds after Tuesday's meeting. One project, he said, is the repaving of College Avenue from Dwight Way to the Oakland border. The federal government has already contributed $1 million to the project, but the council approved an additional $10,000.

"It is very important to the mitigation along College Avenue," Worthington said. "When the repaving is finished, we will do a promotional campaign to get the customers to come back down. We are not allowed to do those things with federal government money, but it is very important to business and residents on College."

Another vital expenditure was a $75,000 grant to Lifelong Medical Care, which provides health care to the uninsured. Since Alta Bates Medical Center no longer funds this program, council members said they hoped the annual $125,000 will be restored for next year.

"I can understand health care because Alta Bates had already given us $125,000 for extending health care to those who don't have coverage," said Councilmember Betty Olds.

A source of contention among council members was the I-80 pedestrian overpass that would allow Berkeley residents to more easily travel to the marina and to the rest of the Bay Area.

Worthington called the overpass one of the more exciting projects, and said it has enjoyed the support of the council.

"Everybody on council agrees that this is one of our top priorities," Worthington said. "We got almost $1 million for the bridge."

The pedestrian bridge will be funded by a combination of sources, including $660,000 from the city's General Fund, and $339,500 from the Redevelopment Agency.

Other council members, however, said they were uncomfortable with taking money away from the Redevelopment Fund, which is set aside for projects in West Berkeley.

"To take money away from the Redevelopment Fund is wrong," Olds said. "The city manager said it might be okay to do that, but that does not negate the fact that that money is for the redevelopment area and it should not be used in another area, for something entirely different."

Olds said the money should be used for what it was originally intended.

"It should be used to rehabilitate West Berkeley, so it is self-supporting and a healthy mix," she said. "To say that that money is not used for development but for something else is wrong. That's why I didn't vote for it."


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