'Sunnyvale Works' helps South Bay city thrive

December 7, 2010 6:48:01 PM PST
Cities across the Bay Area have hunkered down during the recession, cutting back services and laying off employees. But the city of Sunnyvale has taken a different approach, dipping into its reserves and actually spending money.

Sunnyvale's recently renovated historic Murphy Avenue and Milthila Bridge construction project are the cities version of saving for a rainy day. Mayor Melinda Hamilton says being fiscally conservative is paying off.

"Back in the dot com boom, we were one of the few cities that did not do a new library or new city hall. We choose to kind of not blow the money we've got there," she said.

Sunnyvale is spending about $40 million of its own money accelerating years of capital improvement projects. The program is called 'Sunnyvale Works.'

In the last 18 months, Sunnyvale has leveraged the recession and government grant money to put people to work and get things done.

The numbers are adding up to be a huge success. Of the 36 projects targeted, 26 are already done. The city planned to spend a total of $60 million, but managed to stretch its funding to $82 million. Contractors hungry for work submitted bids 29 percent below estimates, saving $23 million.

"Bids were coming in low. We had a lot of work that we could accelerate and could get out there in the bidding community and we took advantage of that," Sunnyvale Public Works Director Marvin Rose said.

Anderson Pacific out of Santa Clara has won bids on two projects amounting to about 20,000 hours of labor.

"That's 10 people that have work for another year, that's what it comes down t," Anderson Pacific Project Manager George Ellison said.

Sunnyvale says by being shovel ready it was able to seize about $30 million in government money.

"A lot of time that is awarded to people who are ready to spend it which is part of the problem right now is that it's being awarded and not spent and we're asking for more," Sunnyvale City Manager Gary Luebbers said.

Sunnyvale Works has become more than just a slogan -- it's the upside in a down economy.


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