corcoran levee

The state of California, agricultural property/business owners and residential property owners in the Corcoran area are being asked to pay for the $10 million levee-raising project completed earlier this year. The project was designed to protect Corcoran from an anticipated lake bottom flood that never materialized.

HANFORD – Corcoran area property owners are starting to learn how much they're being asked to pay for a levee-raising project completed earlier this year.

The Cross Creek Flood Control District sent out ballots earlier this week asking owners to decide on a $10 million funding plan that will put them on the hook.

The flood-protection levee around Corcoran was raised because Fuller and others district officials feared severe flooding would occur in the old Tulare Lake bottom.

The anticipated flooding never happened.

Because the district didn't have anywhere near enough cash on hand to fund the project, contractors and sub-contractors who did the work were paid with IOUs.

The proposal is to have the two state prisons in Corcoran, agricultural landowners/businesses and residential property owners pick up the tab.

The property owners can vote "Yes" or "No" on the scheme. Votes will be weighed according to the value of the property owned by the person/business casting the vote.

Fuller said the state is being asked to pay $5.5 million, agricultural property owners $2.9 million and residential property owners the remaining $1.6 million.

Those amounts would be split into thirds, with one-third being paid in each of the next three years.

The bill would be tacked onto property tax bills, which are normally paid twice a year in two separate payments.

Out of 2,846 residential property owners in Corcoran, the average additional amount each will pay over the next three years is $191.16 a year, according to Fuller.

Fuller said 3,600 ballots were mailed out on Tuesday.

One ballot is more important than all the others combined: the one that went to the state asking if it wants to pay $5.5 million for the privilege of having the two state prisons facilities in Corcoran protected from possible future mega-floods.

If the state votes "No," the whole plan dies.

That's because the two state prison properties in Corcoran are valued at about $1 billion, which is more than half of the $1.9 billion assessed value for all property in the Corcoran area combined.

Fuller expressed confidence that the state will vote "Yes."

"The conversations have been had that need to take place," he said.

Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said Wednesday that the state hasn't committed just yet.

"We're still evaluating the assessment," Sessa said.

Fuller is encouraging all property owners in Corcoran to cast a vote.

He said that if the state doesn't cast a vote, then it will be up to the remaining property owners to decide whether the whole plan goes forward or dies.

If the plan gets approved, the state would still be on the hook for $5.5 million and ag would still be on the hook for $2.9 million.

Fuller said property owners have until Aug. 28 to cast their vote.

He said voters can change their vote as many times as they want up until the deadline.

Fuller said the ballots will be tallied up Aug. 28 after a public hearing at 3 p.m. that day in Corcoran City Council chambers.

Fuller said investors have purchased approximately $3 million out of the $10 million worth of IOUs that were issued.

Fuller said he's used that $3 million to pay some of the contractors, including his main contractor: Wood Brothers Inc., based in Lemoore.

That leaves about $7 million that's owed to people and businesses who worked on the levee project.

Fuller said that if the proposed assessment passes, the district will immediately seek a bank loan for the full amount so it can quickly pay off the remaining IOUs.

Fuller said unpaid workers and contractors would get paid first, before investors.

He said the assessment would be used as collateral to secure the loan.

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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