23 April 2009

Chino Hills State Park Visitor Center Reboot?

At a meeting this afternoon, I learned that the freeze on all bond-funded projects imposed by state government back in December has been lifted. This came about because State Treasurer Bill Lockyer has been able to sell $6.85 billion of general obligation bonds.

Here is the text of a press release from the governor's office:

Following the sale of $6.85 billion in bonds, including $5.2 billion in Recovery Act-backed bonds, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today more than 5,000 projects will be restarted in California, reviving economic activity and creating jobs. Restarted projects include everything from transportation to school construction to environmental and park projects and many more. These projects had been on hold since December 2008. California is the first state in the nation to sell Build America Bonds, taking advantage of this new opportunity provided by the federal Recovery Act.

“California is restarting thousands of critical infrastructure projects that have been frozen because of tight credit markets and the state’s cash crisis,” Governor Schwarzenegger said. “And that, in turn, means that we can retain jobs, create jobs, and give California’s economy an additional boost at a time when it needs it the most.”

“I want to especially commend State Treasurer Lockyer and his staff for executing a successful sale of bonds. Their hard work will now be translated into more jobs and a stronger economy.”

Specifically, Gov. Schwarzenegger said that California will now have the necessary funding to restart all general obligation bond funded projects that had been frozen. The funding will be allocated as follows:
  • $1.7 billion for the state’s taxable general obligation bonds to fund stem cell research and stem cell related projects, various housing programs, and additional needs for High Speed Rail.
  • $5.2 billion from newly authorized Build America Bonds will provide funding to restart the balance of all state projects that had either been stopped and for those that have been proceeding with non-state funding. This includes projects for California State University, the University of California, California Community Colleges, Caltrans and the Department of Water Resources. In addition, this bond sale will fund grants that had been frozen, including school construction projects, environmental and park projects, grant programs to support clean air (engine retrofits and clean port projects), wastewater treatment projects, improvements to drinking water infrastructure, children’s hospitals, public safety grants and local library grant projects. Finally, all outstanding bills not previously funded will be paid.

A complete list of the more than 5,000 projects will be available shortly at www.dof.ca.gov.

Created by the federal stimulus legislation enacted in February, Build America Bonds are a new financing tool for state and local governments, designed to assist state and local governments in financing capital projects at lower borrowing costs and to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The program allows issuers to either sell taxable bonds and receive a direct payment from the U.S. government equivalent to 35 percent of the interest costs on the bonds, or sell taxable bonds that offer purchasers a tax credit. The state plans to issue the bonds and receive the direct reimbursement for repayment of the interest costs.

As explained on the Market Watch website:

California sold $6.85 billion in general obligation bonds Wednesday, including $5.23 billion in federally subsidized Build America Bonds, its state treasurer's office said Wednesday. The bond sale was expanded from original plans of about $3 billion, and the Build America portion is the largest under that federal program to date. All of the bonds in the deal were taxable, a change from most municipal issues. The U.S. is subsidizing interest payments on the Build America Bonds to help states sell taxable infrastructure bonds to a different group of investors without paying more interest. With the subsidy, the Build America Bonds carry a rate of 4.83%. All are in 25-year and 30-year maturities.

Meantime, the Sacramento Business Journal reported today:

After five months in limbo, more than 5,000 California infrastructure projects that have been on hold since December, including about $1 billion worth in the Sacramento area, will be restarted after the state successfully raised enough bond capital to begin funding these projects again, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday.

The projects include school and road construction, environmental and park projects and a wide range of others funded through bonds. The state’s bonding ability had been severely impacted by the economy and the state’s budget impasse that ended in February.

California became the first state to authorize “Build America Bonds” a new federal program, as a way to get funding rolling again. About 300 projects in the four-county Sacramento region that had expected to receive $1.25 billion in state funding had been halted in December.

What this appears to imply is that the visitor center for Chino Hills State Park, which was started last year on the south side of Carbon Canyon Road just east of Carbon Canyon Regional Park, may be jumpstarted.

The property was cleared and graded and the concrete foundations, walls and steel girder placement was done before the freeze. Since then, the chain link fence that surrounds the property has been largely dismantled and knocked over and weeds are sprouting quickly.

So, it may well be that work will be resuming in the very near future.

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