On May 22, a judge found that the Western Riverside Council of Governments is entitled to $42,994,879, plus interest, for the Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee (TUMF) Program, which the council administers and Beaumont once was part of.
"Our hope is that Beaumont will make good on remitting the money that is owed to the program and that they will start the process immediately," WRCOG's executive director, Rick Bishop, told Patch by telephone on Wednesday. "The sooner that Beaumont can start remitting money to WRCOG, the better it is for them… because of interest.”However, the city of Beaumont tells Patch it cannot yet say if those payments will be made.
The city released the following statement to Banning-Beaumont Patch on Wednesday:
"The City of Beaumont is currently reviewing the court reporter's transcript of the judge’s oral ruling from last week and is still awaiting the written decision and judgment. The City Council will be meeting in Closed Session at the next City Council meeting to discuss the matter and the City's options. Per the advice of our attorneys, the City is unable to provide any additional comments on this pending litigation."
So, what is all of this about?
Well, WRCOG claimed the City of Beaumont agreed to participate in the TUMF program in the spring of 2003. This program is supposed to help develop infrastructure — roadways, highways and interchanges — that will align with future growth in Western Riverside County, according to Bishop.
TUMF is a voluntary program, Bishop says, but Beaumont — along with all other cities in Western Riverside County — agreed to participate.
“With regards to the TUMF program, the city council adopted an ordinance that signals their intention to participate in the program," Bishop told Patch.
Bishop said a subsequent amendment for participating in the program was adopted in 2007.
"The major focus of the case was that city council adopted an ordinance but then did not comply with it; that was the finding of the court," Bishop said.
The city's argument during the case was that instead of remitting TUMF payments, the city took care of the infrastructure work itself, "... and the court found otherwise," according to Bishop.
Did the city ever pay?
According to Bishop, the city of Beaumont did make some payments into the TUMF program — but not nearly enough. He said partial payments were made for the first few years before they stopped entirely.
"It wasn't nearly reflective of the amount of development that was going on in the city," he told Patch. "We spent several years… trying to understand what they were doing… and we could never get a clear understanding based on what Beaumont was giving us and that ultimately was what caused us to initiate the litigation."
Ultimately, WRCOG kicked Beaumont out of the organization, which is why Beaumont residents can't get access to some of their programs like HERO that "allows home and business owners to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation improvements that would be repaid over time through annual property tax payments," which all other Western Riverside County residents can utilize.
A lawsuit was filed in 2009.
In last week's ruling, Orange County Superior Court Judge David Chaffee said he expects an appeal will be made.