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Publication Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Portola Valley: location of Town Hall puts town budget in limbo Portola Valley: location of Town Hall puts town budget in limbo (May 29, 2002)

By Sharon Driscoll

Almanac Staff Writer

Not only is the next fiscal year's budget about 17 percent smaller than the current year's, but Portola Valley's Town Council was faced with one more bit of bad news at its May 22 meeting: Town Hall will need to be relocated in the near future.

"It's really hard to do a budget right now. Everything is up in the air," said Town Administrator Angela Howard.

And while representatives from the town's various committees showed up to pitch for their piece of a much-reduced budget pie, what they encountered was a council reeling from the news of an earthquake fault running right through, or perilously near to, Town Hall.

The council's budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, which ends June 30, included about $4 million to rebuild Town Hall, build a new corporation building, and up-grade the multi-purpose room. Plans to begin that project were put on hold last September when a geological investigation was launched to locate the San Andreas Fault offshoot, the Woodside trace.

What was designed and budgeted as a teardown will now need to be redesigned for a new location, once one is found, and could be more costly.

Committee representatives at the meeting asked the council to budget for an overhaul of the town's field next to the Alpine Inn, to put more money toward a new children's playground, and to upgrade fields at Town Center.

But according to Ms. Howard, while the council is sympathetic toward these requests and may even budget funds for the work, until the larger issue of where Town Hall can be safely located is settled, none of it will happen.

"We can't do work on the fields now, or Little People's Park, or the tennis courts. Everything hinges on finding a suitable building site for Town Hall," she said.

Trails Committee Chair Dr. Mary Hufty asked for the creation of a new staff position dedicated to maintaining the town's wide-ranging trail system. The council decided that given the economic climate, it would be more prudent to hold off on that request, but promised to identify existing staff members who could spend more time on the trails.

Dr. Hufty also asked the council to deputize a committee member to act as a trail ranger who could monitor inappropriate use of the trails, saying that there had been complaints about people ignoring signs prohibiting dogs. The council said no to this request as well, citing possible legal obstacles to letting a resident write citations.


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