Kings County officials said today the county would suffer a $100 million hit to its economy and lose enough property tax revenue to sideline a fifth of the sheriff deputies if the state's high-speed rail project runs through what officials called the "heart of the county's dairy belt."
The comments were part of testimony at a coordination meeting between the county and the California High Speed Rail Authority, which was only represented by Jeff Abercrombie, the project's Central Valley program manager. Abercrombie faced a blistering assault from county supervisors and staff as well as a standing room only crowd in the supervisor chambers.
County Community Development Agency Director Greg Gatzka had some choice words for authority board members and staff who have said in the past that they are working closely with the county and ag interests and have resolved many issues.
"That's basically baloney," said Gatzka. "These statements are misleading."
Abercrombie was thrown a potential olive branch by Gatzka, who said the authority could avoid the impacts to Kings County due to an emerging consensus among Kings and Tulare County officials to refocus attention on a route along Highway 99. Gatzka said Visalia officials stand ready to donate land for a station. Authority officials have studied the Highway 99 alignment in the past, but have limited recent studies to the route through Kings County because of a tight timeline that mandates environmental studies be conducted and construction begin by 2012 because of federal stimulus grant guidelines.
The authority will conduct a second meeting tonight to take public comment. The open-microphone, question-and-answer session will being at 5 p.m. in the Rose Room of the Kings Fairgrounds.