The City Council, meeting as the Transportation Benefit District Board, Monday night approved a $20 annual car tab fee to help inject new money into the city's street maintenance program.
Liz Lovelett cast the only ‘no’ vote, saying “I continue to think this is a nickel-and-dime approach to solving this problem”
The fee, which is expected to add $300,000 annually to street maintenance, is not expected to go into effect until next February, according to City Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer. He said the state Department of Licensing could take as long as six months to actually put the fee into the state system.
The car tab fee is part of a $1.1-million dollar plan to upgrade city streets. The plan includes the funds from the car tab fee, $200,000 from the utility tax, $200,000 in general tax revenue, $250,000 in Real Estate Excise Tax revenue, and $150,000 from funds compensating the city for heavy truck traffic in connection with the delivery of so-called prilled sulfur to the Port.
The plan amounts to a major push for the city to play ‘catch-up’ with street maintenance, which has fallen behind for the last few years with the city not even funding any street maintenance at all for 3 of the last 7 years. And, for the other 4 years, the city funded only $185,000, on average, for repairs.
Buckenmeyer has said, “If we maintain current funding levels the street network condition will decline rapidly in the foreseeable future.” He had earlier estimated the city would need to spend $64-million over a ten-year period to put the streets in top shape or $48-million to meet the average of other cities in the state.
A survey of the city’s entire street system taken last year put the city’s average street condition at 64 on the Pavement Condition Index, while 76 is the average for other cities of similar size. Some streets, such as one section of M Ave. in Old Town, are in the 20’s.