The city of Spokane has a plan to rescue Spokane’s distressed streets, but it comes at an increased cost to taxpayers.
During Monday’s City Council briefing, council members heard a proposal to put a bond issue before voters that could cost the average homeowner anywhere from $27 to $146 a year.
“We have a problem with our streets,” said Irv Reed, the city’s director of planning and engineering services. “The problem is we have not been able to preserve what we have.
“Our streets are falling apart.”
Reed offered the council several options, ranging from a $15 million bond to a $45 million bond, with repayment ranging from five to 10 years. The options affect the cost to taxpayers.
A $15 million bond repaid over five years would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $27 a year. A $45 million bond repaid over 10 years would cost that same homeowner about $83 annually. The $45 million bond repaid on a five-year schedule would cost that resident about $146 a year.
“We know it’s a sticker shock, but that’s the nature of the problem we have,” Reed said.
The money could be used only for street resurfacing and repair, not building new roads, he said.
If council members choose to put the bond issue to voters, Reed said, they also must decide whether to try one of the two fall ballots or wait until spring of 1997.
The council will consider the bond proposal next week.
During Monday’s meeting, the council heard more sobering news about ailing city services that could also mean a bite out of taxpayers’ wallets.
The city’s sewer, water and street departments need at least $142 million worth of capital improvements to meet their long-term needs.
The sewer and water departments anticipate raising rates about 5 percent each year over the next six to help pay for repairs and improvements.
John Bjork, director of the water department, said the city’s aging water system needs about $26.5 million worth of repairs.
“Our oldest pipe in service was built in 1884 - within 20 years of the Civil War,” Bjork said. “We have some old, old equipment we have to take care of.”
State taxpayer dollars - along with ratepayer dollars - would help pay the repair bill, Bjork said.
Gale Olrich, director of the city’s wastewater treatment program, said his department needs about $50 million in improvements to meet state and federal clean water mandates.
The wastewater treatment plant needs the lion’s share of those dollars - about $31 million - to comply with laws and keep up with growth.
County aquifer assessments, joined with state and federal taxpayer dollars, would pick up part of the tab. Ratepayers would pay the balance.
Bruce Steele, the city’s transportation director, delivered more bad news about streets.
The city’s long-range plan includes about $66 million in capital improvements aimed at repairing bridges, solving congestion problems and dealing with growth.
But, Steele added, “We have unfunded needs to the tune of $200 million.”
The six-year plan doesn’t include the bond proposal because the council hasn’t approved the plan.
The council will consider the three long-range plans at next Monday’s meeting.
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