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City Council Update

Courtesy: Tor Hanson, Special Projects Reporter


Street Maintenance in Focus – Transportation Funding Redux


It is no secret the lack of street maintenance has become a sore subject for a growing number of Bend citizens. And, after this winter more and more people are asking what the city is going to do to alleviate the pain points around town.

Hidden under the innocuous title, Strategies to Improve Street Maintenance Service Levels, Bend City Council last week set out to find solutions – and money, to fix the city’s crumbling streets. The topic ended up taking up the entire two-hour work session plus a fair amount of time during the regular meeting. At hand, find enough money to cover a $500,000 funding gap.

 


Finding Savings and Re-allocating Funds


The city currently has $9.9 million set aside for street maintenance which breaks in to five main buckets; Preservation, Accessibility, Signs & Markings, Winter Operations, and Street Sweeping.

Money for Street preservation comes out of the Preservation, and in the current biennium budget $4.1 million are set aside to maintain city roads. The baseline funding is only $3.5 million, which leaves a gap to fund the city’s wish to maintain, and hopefully improve, the Pavement Condition Index (PCI).

Currently, the City of Bend holds an average PCI level of 70% on the city’s 849 lane miles. In fairness, it’s an increase of 2 points from the 2014/2015 budget cycle. However, ten years ago the number hovered around 76% which shows a steady decline of the upkeep of city streets.

City Manager Eric King, Finance Director Sharon Wojda, and Assistant City Manager Kevin Riper, took city council through a presentation that pointed out the reasons why Bend roads have deteriorated to the current state in ten short years.

The three main factors include the increasing cost of doing business, which includes materials and asphalt. The cost has gone up approximately 300%. The city has also experienced a 30% population growth which has seen an increased need for additional lane miles and a growing street budget. In short, the cost of maintaining and repairing our roads have outpaced revenue, creating a declining trend in road conditions.

At the same time, city council has kicked the can further down the road and decided to skimp on street maintenance. The recession played a major part in the story of how Bend came to be in the current situation. As the recession took hold, property tax dollars declined, which in turn impacted the amount of money going into city coffers. Voters also resoundingly defeated a 5-cent fuel tax in 2016.

In January, the council directed city staff to explore options to find the needed money through budget cuts and reallocation of funds. Based on an all-inclusive study, spanning all city departments, staff brought forth five recommendations on how to cover the funding gap.

Summarizing the issue at hand, King stressed that the cost of further delaying street maintenance would only make matters worse.

In January, the council directed city staff to explore options to find the needed money through budget cuts and reallocation of funds. Based on an all-inclusive study, spanning all city departments, staff brought forth five recommendations on how to cover the funding gap.

Staff recommendations include five major buckets. The first would be a 2% reduction in Central Services which would bring in an annual $250,000 to fund street maintenance. In addition, the city would make a temporary reduction in the General Funds reserve to the tune of $250,000, a temporary redirection of discretionary revenues ($300,000), temporary redirection of Fire/EMS funds ($200,000), and a re-allocation of the Transient Room Tax ($350,000) for a total of $1.35 million towards street maintenance.

It should be noted that the redirection of Fire/EMS funds are suggested and approved by respective department.

Several times during the discussion, King emphasized the need to maintain the health of the city organization; focusing on balanced and conservative cuts. King noted he was in favor of staff recommendation saying, “as a city manager, he could support the reductions.”

At the end of the presentation, Mayor Roats asked the councilors to give King directions for the proposed cuts and re-allocation of funds by voting on each of the five options.

  • Option 1: A reduction in Central Services: 5-2, Boddie and Campbell opposing
  • Option 2: A reduction in general funds reserve: 4-3, Russell, Boddie, and Campbell opposing
  • Option 3: Redirection of discretionary funds: 4-3, Moseley, Boddie, and Campbell opposing
  • Option 4: Redirection of Fire/EMS funds: 5-2, Boddie and Campbell opposing
  • Option 5: Re-allocation of TRT funds: 7-0

 


Mending Perceived East and West Divide


In the ensuing weeks since the City Council Financial Strategy meeting on March 22, speculations have circled around what was discussed and decided when it comes to the transportation improvement package.

Abernethy set off the discussion, stressing meeting details from March 22 were not reported accurately, which fueled a notion among Bend citizens that city council had forgotten the east side in favor of spending money on transportation projects on the west side of town. This would leave much needed improvements to Empire and Murphy roads by the wayside.

The total transportation project budget amounts to $35 million. Throughout the following discussion, each councilor pledged his or her support to the so-called blended option, which would set aside $23 million for transportation upgrades around the city, leaving approximately $12 million in reserve.

Livingston noted the “blended option” does not solve the need to expand roads such as Empire and Murphy. He would recommend funding the expansion projects through a general obligation bond (GO bond).

The blended option includes $8 million dollar set aside for developing engineering designs for Empire and Murphy road improvements, and an additional $15 million earmarked for safety improvements throughout the city, and improvements to the 14th Street corridor and Galveston.

Nixing the notion that money was generally targeted towards west side projects, Abernethy told fellow councilors that a majority of the funds set aside for transportation upgrades in the “blended option” would support eastside transportation projects.

Livingston noted the “blended option” does not solve the need to expand roads such as Empire and Murphy. He would recommend funding the expansion projects through a general obligation bond (GO bond).

Moseley stressed the cost for expanding Empire and Murphy should be shared by the city and developers benefitting from the improvements, highlighting public/private partnership. Mayor Roats agreed along the same lines.

Boddie on his side, reminded the councilors they had all agreed that Empire and Murphy were priorities for this council. Campbell iterated her support for the major improvement projects, also showing support for the 14th Street and Galveston projects.

Russell summed up the discussion stating the council needed to work together and make a good, strong decisions for the whole community.

Though the council in general favor the blended option, there is a rift among the councilors exactly how to allocate money aside from the $8 million design phase of Empire and Murphy. Showing strong emotions, Campbell pointedly told the councilors, “if the three of you don’t like the [blended option] plan, we need to call back city staff.”

 


In Other News: Resolutions on Arbor Day and Equal Pay


In support of Arbor Day, city council has decided to designate April 28 as “Arbor Day for the City of Bend. Councilor Boddie read the proclamation. The council also decided to show support for the now 50-year-old Equal Pay Act, highlighting that there are still lingering gaps when it comes to equal pay for men and women. Councilor Russell read the proclamation.

 

 

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