On Friday, Bend City Councilors, completely encircled by city staff and advisory committee members, began plotting strategies to begin tackling major street maintenance and upgrade challenges, along sewer, water and stormdrain expansions.
Street maintenance and other transportation improvements/expansions.
It’s estimated that Bend is $80 million behind in road and street maintenance. City officials promise that if maintenance falls even farther behind, that number could skyrocket because once a streets deteriorate to a certain point, they have to be completely rebuilt from the dirt up.
One strategy offered by staff includes a 5-cent per gallon city gas tax, just like 23 other cities have approved around the state. Any gas tax increase would have to be approved by the voters. Other options include a minor increase in city and water utility bills or the city resorting to floating a bond – or any combination of the above. It was agreed that the only way the voters would agree to a gas tax increase would be if they knew the money was going for specific street maintenance and improvement projects. Specific stretches of streets. Also, pedestrian and bikeway improvements must be part of the mix.
Next on the list – sewer, water and stormwater handling. Bend is growing and so must it’s sewer, water and stormwater system. Looking at the expansion of those systems it was tentatively agreed by the council that water rates would rise 3% a year and sewer rates would rise 4% a year. The first water rate increase may not happen until October 1st because the council suffered considerable heartburn raising water rates July 1st, which is right in the middle of the summer watering season.
Discussions about rates for what’s called “extra strength” effluent, especially from beer breweries, polarized discussions for a time among councilors but finally settled out with the council generally agreeing that although residential customers verifiably are subsidizing the breweries’ sewer bills, that gap will narrow considerably in the very near future.
And to the extent that System Development Charges (SDCs) are once again flowing into city hall, due to increased construction activity throughout Bend, they will have a positive cash flow effect on this part of the city budget perhaps offering other street maintenance and utility enhancement opportunities.
Next step on the way to a city budget that takes effect July 1
City staff will report back to the council during their regular meeting May 6th at which point staff will present funding options reflecting city council preferences for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance programs – including how to fund them. The council will have a chance to re-hash those options as a final step toward approving these very important components to the overall city budget for next fiscal year which takes effect July 1st.