September 12, 1996

Proposition 1: Street Repairs

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Taxpayers’ cash can save Spokane’s rough and rutted roads, say supporters of the proposed $37.3 million street bond.

Without it, the streets will only get worse, they say.

“If we take responsibility now, we will salvage many miles of Spokane’s arterials,” says Dale Stedman, coordinator of the “Yes! For Better Streets” campaign. “If we ignore it, let them break up more, the costs will multiply.

“We want to attack our problem while we can still afford to.”

The campaign is backed by a 36-member committee composed of labor leaders, current and former council members, engineers, contractors and developers. Black-and-white signs with the campaign slogan dot the city’s landscape.

Also, the city has posted informational signs on 70 streets “scheduled for improvement” if the bond passes Sept. 17.

The bond would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $89 a year for seven years.

Council spending critics Jonathan Swanstrom and Dick Adams late last week formed the “Naysayers” - an organized effort to shoot the bond issue down. They argue city officials spend unwisely and can’t be trusted with the $37.3 million.

The “ravages of time and cold winters” have left the city’s 220 arterial miles in rotten shape, says Phil Williams, the city’s director of planning and engineering services.

For years, the city relied on federal dollars for routine street upkeep, but that money has vanished, Williams says. Other ways to pay for resurfacing - a utility tax, a local gas tax, an added motor vehicle fee - were shot down by courts, voters and county commissioners.

The shrinking pot of state gas tax revenue has made the situation even worse, says Ken Stone, the city’s budget director. In fact, the city last year received less in gas-tax revenues than it did five years ago, to $2.90 million in 1995 from $2.96 million in 1991.

The city has no choice but to ask property taxpayers for help, Williams says.

Nearly 70 arterial miles need repairs, he said. Bond dollars would go to resurface about 46 arterial miles and four residential miles.

There are no guarantees, Williams cautions. How far the money goes depends on the condition of the street once repair begins. “We’re trying to play catch-up here,” he says.

City leaders hope to convince the state Legislature to offer municipalities different road-repair funding options. But Spokane can’t be sure new dollar sources will materialize, Williams says.

“This work has to be done,” he says. “We don’t have time to wait for some new and different funding proposal.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PROPOSITION 1 The proposed $37.3 million street bond would pay to resurface about 46 miles of arterials and four to five miles of residential roads. The bond would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $89 a year for seven years.

This sidebar appeared with the story: PROPOSITION 1 The proposed $37.3 million street bond would pay to resurface about 46 miles of arterials and four to five miles of residential roads. The bond would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $89 a year for seven years.


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