COUNTYWIDE : Train Panel OKs Consultant Pacts

Anaheim-based Willdan Associates was selected Friday to provide $50,000 in civil engineering advice to the bistate commission overseeing plans for high-speed rail service between Anaheim and Las Vegas.

Meeting in Ontario, the California-Nevada Super Speed Ground Transportation Commission also approved a $5,000-per-month government relations contract to influential county lobbyist Frank Michelena and his Sacramento business partner, Paula Treat.

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Don R. Roth, who is vice chairman of the train panel, abstained on both votes because Treat and Willdan contributed money last year to his reelection campaign. In addition, Michelena is listed on Roth's statement of economic interest as having provided Roth with food and gifts last year.

State Sen. Bill Leonard (R-Big Bear) also abstained, for the same reasons.

Commission officials said the contract awarded to Michelena did not have to be open to competitive bidding and was based solely on the recommendation of Paul Taylor, the panel's executive director, and the commission's community and government relations committee. The contract awarded to Willdan, however, had been open to bids.

Also at Friday's session, transportation officials from San Bernardino and Riverside counties argued that stations for the proposed high-speed train should be built in their areas.

But Roth argued that firms bidding on the right to build and operate the rail service have already been told officially that they are to recommend where the stations should be.

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