HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany searches for street funding ideas

Written June 10th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Bouncing along one of central Albany’s old residential streets, especially on a bike like in the video here, makes you wonder if the city will ever have the means to make repairs, now decades overdue. Monday’s council work session does not signal a solution any time soon.

For years the council has, from time to time, been prodded about street funding. In May 2018 it put on the ballot a 5-cent/gallon local fuel tax, and voters killed it by a ratio greater than two to one.

Monday the council was asked what if any steps the city should take next. The council’s answer to the city staff: Find out what other cities in Oregon, including all the ones closest to the mid-valley, are doing about street funding.

You can read all about the situation with Albany streets here, on the city’s website. Preparing that info is one of the “public outreach” measures the city administration has taken since the fuel tax defeat.

The gist of it — besides the information nugget that end to end Albany streets would reach San Francisco — is that the city figures it needs about $20 million to bring all its main streets up to a good condition. Then it would need $5 million a year to keep them that way. But that doesn’t include doing anything for local streets such as portions of Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth east of Lyon, streets that are pockmarked with patches and potholes, including potholes in the patches.

The city street fund gets about $2 million a year from various sources including the state fuel tax, leaving a yawning gap between what it gets and what it needs.

Mayor Sharon Konopa wants the council to enact a utility fee –charged on top of the city’s water and sewer bills — to support not just streets but also the police, fire and parks departments. Something like $10 a month was mentioned. Councilor Alex Johnson II worried about what that would do to residents who already can’t afford some necessities. Other councilors have said any such utility fee would have to go to the voters, just like the fuel tax did last year.

When streets are built now in residential developments, the developers pay the cost and get it back in the sales prices of new houses. But unless you pay assessments to a homeowners’ association, nobody sets aside money for fixing these assets when they wear out. So the Albany street situation will keep coming up decades from now.

As for dodging potholes, on Fifth and some of the others, people who can’t avoid those streets will have to keep dodging them for years to come. It’s a question of priorities. To the council and those who elect it, almost everything the city pays money for is more important than holes in the pavement on Fifth. (hh)

This place on Fifth looks like it has been patched before, but it didn’t last.



22 responses to “Albany searches for street funding ideas”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    Things will be better when electric vehicles take over.

  2. Rolland says:

    NO NEW TAXES! Time for the council and city to live with in their means like the rest of us property owners

    • Wendy Benke says:

      Exactly!

      • Steve Reynolds says:

        I have to admit the last property tax hike, as a result of the school bond, was significant, I knew it would be and it was obvious it would push those on the lower end of the economic ladder into the abyss, but those are the rules Salem has given us. What bothers me is how the $189 million dollars is being spent. I look many days at the elementary school structure being built out here in N. Albany and I wonder, how does a child that is starting kindergarten going to view a building that resembles what looks like a prison or massive government structure? It doesn’t look anything like a small, local, inviting school you would see in a neighborhood or an inviting downtown that features local businesses. It looks distant, it projects power over individuals, it looks exactly like the scene in Shawshank Redemption when the prison is seen against the beautiful backdrop of Maine. I am not an expert in child development, but even a layman can see this doesn’t seem right, I can’t imagine how these little kids are going to feel. On the flip side,you have a small run down school at the end of Scenic that obviously needs some attention (which actually looks more inviting) and yet there doesn’t seem to be any upgrades, I’m curious as to what the parents of small children think, I just don’t understand the mindset of GAPS.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “…how does a child that is starting kindergarten going to view a building that resembles what looks like a prison or massive government structure? It doesn’t look anything like a small, local, inviting school you would see in a neighborhood…”

          I seriously doubt ANY “child” recognizes or gives a rip about the design of the school they’re going to. Did you when you were going to kindergarten [grade, middle, or high school]?

          Building multiple smaller schools would be more expensive from the get go…

        • centrist says:

          It’s obvious you have strong feelings.
          I have no nostalgia for a small school because my first one was two 3-story stone buildings serving over 3000 children in 8 grades. My 1st grade CLASSROOM had over 100 children and one teacher.
          Ihave to say that the concrete building beside the Oak Grove building looks stark. But we don’t know what architectural features will prettify it

          • Steve Reynolds says:

            I remember as a child going to my local neighborhood school, with a very nice kindergarten teacher. My first impression of this thing, is it looks like a prison. It doesn’t look like there was any thought put into how this would interact with the N. Albany community. To Ray’s point, I guess the future is designing “cost effective” schools based on the Amazon warehouse principle….and yes I do think a child notices what their school looks like when you drop them off for their first day of kindergarten.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    A monumental failure of city government and its unwillingness to prioritize spending over a long period of time.

    Unless you live in the commercial downtown area. Millions have been spent on those roads. The city council effectively slapped the rest of Albany in the face by doing this over the past 20 years, Clearly, some parts of Albany are more equal than others.

    And now the council whines that they don’t have money or “community” support to pay for road fixes in the rest of Albany?

    Another unforeseen consequence of CARA reveals itself.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Typical dystopian response. Solution? Appoint you as the “Most Benevolent Dictator” and let you decide what’s best for all. All our issues will be solved.

      Your diatribes are so tiresome… (And how is your “community” doing in comparison to our?? Inquiring minds want to know…)

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Well, Hasso had a partial solution here: https://hh-today.com/dodging-craters-on-our-streets/

        I would have tolerated CARA spending on residential streets. But CARA exists to please the cronies, so the street spending was limited to the commercial area.

        But even if CARA decided to fix downtown residential streets, that still leaves… what…80%?….90%?… of the rest of Albany virtually uncovered (no pun intended). Who in city hall cares about those streets?

        Note to Hasso: In the article linked above you mentioned that you were going to get an explanation for “street administration.” Did you get the explanation?

        • No, I forgot about that. Will have to revisit that point.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “But CARA exists to please the cronies, so the street spending was limited to the commercial area.”

          Another bald faced lie…

          I actually attempted to work out a process by which CARA could fund some of the “fixing” of the streets within the URD, but ran into serious issues of deciding which streets should/would be targeted — knowing full well that whatever mount was dedicated to it, would be but a drop in the bucket.

          On top of that, do you tear up a street to “fix” it knowing that within a year or two the water-sewer lines would have to also be replaced? You’d be tearing up the road twice. Trying to tie in road repair with that brings up a whole different set of “issues” to be sure.

          Giving priority to “arterials & collectors” is the tried & true methodology. I haven’t heard of anything more efficacious. Possibly that will come about from seeing what other communities are doing. It’s not like Albany is the only community in this predicament…

    • J. Jacobson says:

      The grim truth is – Albany citizens continually vote against their own interests. The inevitable result is an Out-of-Touch City Council, perennially repeating costly mistakes. In some masochistic twist, voters reelect them – the definition of insanity.

      The pattern is ingrained, nearly incorporated into the community DNA. The electorate no longer senses it. The conclusion forced upon us? Albany’s street repair issues are likely to remain as long as the electorate continues to shoot itself in the foot.

      The 5 or ten letter-writers to this media outlet who complain are but a sliver.
      The majority vote [year-in and year-out] status quo, full steam ahead.

    • John Allen says:

      Totally agree. Budget for the “needs” (road maintenance, police, fire, library, etc) and quit spending money on the “wants” when you don’t have the money in the budget. Request additional funds from the taxpayers for “wants”, and if you don’t get them, don’t steal from the “needs”.

      • Rolland says:

        Exactly my point about living with in their means. NO NEW TAXES and since some want to add it to our monthly utility costs, NO NEW FEES!

        When will the city float the idea of a PERS Fee on our monthly bill!

  4. Cheryl P says:

    “nobody sets aside money for fixing these assets when they wear out”

    And therein lies the problem…lack of fiscal responsibility. Interesting that state law requires [private] HOAs to have Reserves, but [public] local governments don’t. Or they are supposed to in certain instances, but since the monies aren’t kept in a separate account (except on paper), they are often ‘allocated’ to other matters and then when it’s time to repair and/or replace, there is no money. And then the taxpayers are forced to pay the price…literally.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The city *does* have reserves. They at the minimum of 5%. The City Manager has been tasked to raise the reserves – which he & staff have in the upcoming budget. The good ratings Albany has for bonds is due, in part, to the reserves the city has.

      “they [reserves] are often ‘allocated’ to other matters…”

      Yes, that is what the council does – set the priorities for the City Manager & staff to implement.

    • centrist says:

      With regard to reserves, the voters don’t tolerate them. A poster-child is the Kicker. There are constructive uses for that surplus, but they will continue unfunded..

  5. PammieSue says:

    To be financially sound, one must anticipate, budget, and live within their means. As it applies to our city and its representative council, one cannot spend frivolously (ie. suspended lights over downtown streets, pickleball courts, vacated bank buildings) and then resort to instituting new or higher taxes to cover basic necessities like street repair and/or maintenance.

  6. Craig Friday says:

    I would like to see the city of Albany enact a “utility fee” like Corvallis did. I love that one of the city councilors said “you can do that without a citizen vote”. Tell that to the Corvallis city councilors that decided they can increase that fee whenever they think it’s needed. Want free bus rides? Need to take care of city trees? Subsidize a bike sharing program? Add it into the utility fee. I am curious where they think the limits of this fee are.

    After the citizens of Albany go crazy on government overreach, a lawsuit will prove that the city overstepped their authority to take money at will. Then Corvallis will learn through Albany’s experience that people are crazy to trust spending decisions that are arbitrary and capricious.

    I think the city should increase the fee enough to buy everyone an electric vehicle. Then the roads won’t wear out and we’ll save 5 million a year. There, problem solved. My heart is now satisfied by trying to do good.

    • Rich Kellum says:

      It wasn”t a city councilor, it was the Mayor, more than one of us objected to the thought of “you don’t have to ask the people”

  7. Lou says:

    Take a look around. It’s not just Albany. All of the state roads and highways are starting to fall apart. It seems to me, that since Gov. Brown took over the roads are in worse condition and the trash along our highways is not cleaned up like it use to be……..

 

 
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