Bad roads, not enough money
A plan to issue $765,000 in general obligation bonds to pay for street projects in Alexandria hit a dead-end Monday night.
Three Alexandria City council members voted to pursue the bonds while two council members, Virgil Batesole and Todd Jensen, voted against it. The vote had to be unanimous in order for the city to issue the bonds.
It will now have to come up with another way of paying for the projects if it goes ahead with the work, which includes this year’s street overlays and an extensive $560,000 reclamation project on Rosewood Lane.
The vote came after City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven presented a five-year plan that showed the advantages of spending a little money now to overlay streets instead of waiting until they get to be in such poor shape they need to be completely reconstructed.
Schoonhoven’s plan rated all the roads in the city on a scale of 0 (new road, excellent condition) to 5 (in too bad of shape to be overlayed). While 54 percent of the city’s streets were determined to be in good to excellent condition, 17 miles of roads were deemed to be in poor shape (4 or 5) and would cost $15.26 million to repair.
The condition of the roads rated as 2 or 3 are key, Schoonhoven said. Overlaying them would cost about $1.9 million, but doing nothing would end up costing the city $10.34 million in five to 10 years.
Council member Roger Thalman made a motion to call for the bonds. “We need to start biting the bullet before these roads get really bad,” he said. He added that bonding would at least spread the cost of the work over a 10-year period rather than raising taxes significantly in one year.
Jensen said he’s frustrated that the city has been spending money on beautification aspects of other projects instead of critical needs such as roads.
Batesole said he wasn’t against the road projects but was worried that the city was “sticking its neck out” by taking on so many additional expenses, such as the Runestone Community Center roof repairs, the 50th Avenue project and the Broadway reconstruction. Batesole said the city should have taken care of the deteriorating roads years ago.
Dave Benson and Owen Miller supported Thalman’s motion but state law requires city councils to issue street reconstruction bonds unanimously or through a referendum passed by voters.
After the vote, Batesole started to talk again about the bonds and Mayor Sara Carlson banged the gavel several times, saying he was out of order. Batesole objected, saying the mayor didn’t have the authority to stop him from speaking.
“You are out of order, Mr. Batesole,” Carlson said. “We are done with this and we are moving on.”
Later in the meeting, Jensen made a motion to table a request to call for bids on the street overlay projects and it passed, 4-1, with Miller voting no. The council will talk about possible funding sources in a work session next week.
See more council news in Friday’s issue.