A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany talks bond issue, utility fee for streets

Written August 26th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Albany Avenue, from Salem Avenue (foreground) to Pacific Boulevard in the background, is on the likely list of bond projects.

There’s a good chance the Albany City Council will ask voters in 2020 to approve a bond issue to pay for reconstructing half a dozen streets including Albany Avenue. Voters might also be asked to decide on an extra monthly utility fee to pay for street maintenance and repairs.

At Monday’s work session, the council heard a staff proposal for a bond issue of about $19 million to rebuild parts of six arterial or connector streets totaling not quite 2 miles. Besides Albany Avenue, which is only a few hundred feet long, the others were Third from Vine to Washington, Ninth from Elm to Washington, and three in the southeast Albany shopping complex: 14th from Geary to Waverly, Clay from 14th to Santiam Highway, and Waverly from Santiam to Queen.

Councilman Mike Sykes insisted that any bond should be big enough to also cover sewer and water line work under the pavement, and others seemed to agree. This would raise the proposed amount in the bond election by more than $6 million, unless some of the streets are dropped from the plan.

Councilman Bill Coburn wondered about Ninth and the segment of Third leading to Bryant Park. Those might be dropped, even though in sections on Ninth the asphalt has been patched and is breaking up again.

The bond election would be either in the May 2020 primary or the general election that November. The council will have to decide which. For a $19 million, 20-year bond issue, the estimated property tax rate would be 28 cents per $1,000 of property value.

The proposed bond projects do not include any local streets, some of which, especially in the older part of town east of Lyon Street, are very rough indeed. That’s where the idea of an added monthly city utility fee would come in.

Monday’s session was the latest in a long series of council discussions about street funding. The gist is that the local portion of the state fuel tax is not nearly enough to maintain city streets, and there’s a “shortfall” of millions of dollars every year as the city can’t keep up and the streets get worse.

Mayor Sharon Konopa has reservations about the street bond idea, which would raise city property taxes. She prefers a utility fee because every water and sewer customer, not just owners of taxable property, would pay it. She also says the utility fee revenue could be split, some for streets and other proportions for police, fire, libraries, and parks.

If you’re up to it, you can listen to the council’s back-and-forth on this and other items at cityofalbany.net once the audio is posted there, under “city council, meeting materials.”

The upshot Monday was that nobody decided anything. A revised bond proposal will eventually come back to the council. And more work will be done on the plan for a utility fee. One big question will be whether the council enacts the fee on its own or asks the voters to decide. (hh)

This section of Third, from Vine Street east, was also on the list for reconstruction,

8 responses to “Albany talks bond issue, utility fee for streets”

  1. Rolland says:

    Fee is just another three letter word for Tax!

    There is no doubt the Council has some hard choices to make because of the PERS issues and needs of the City. It’s time they find out what tax payers want to spend their money for.

    Both the street bond and utility fee increases come after wasted dollars were spent on pretty lights in the center of a few downtown streets and before the City spends money for yet another study on how to develop Water Avenue.

    Is it a money shortage or a lack of spending priorities.

  2. centrist says:

    Ahh, the lights. I’ve seen that style on many cities across the US. Nice touch.
    Now the streets. Some folks demand service, but don’t want to pay for it.
    You can wish in one hand and spit in the other. Only one will get full.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    “One big question will be whether the council enacts the fee on its own or asks the voters to decide.”

    Do you honestly think 4 councilors will let Albany residents vote on a street fee?

    The unstated premise of local government is that people are stupid and dangerous, elected councilors excluded, of course.

    This fee must be IMPOSED on the plebeians for their own good.

    Thus spake the Nanny.

  4. Steve Reynolds says:

    I like the Alex Johnson idea. Is it possible to add an additional amount to the deposit on cans and bottles especially soda? Instead of 10 cents maybe 15 cents, we keep the nickle. The idea of making it harder to get sugar drinks because of all the expense in health care dollars they cause is valid. If you want to discourage something… tax it, they should be in the same category as cigarettes. Adding more tax to the back of Albany resident’s homes is insane, the city, county and schools have already taken out a mortgage on everyone that’s paid off their home and taken out a 2nd mortgage on everyone that currently has a first mortgage. Also, we need to start looking seriously at all the “non-profits” that are taking city services and not paying for them, many are receiving public funding and still not paying for services. I think we need to narrow the definition of a “non-profit” or maybe treat them like the liquor store model and limit how many we allow in each category. There’s just far too many exceptions for those not paying for services.

  5. Linda Reining says:

    I am really confused in 33 years my property taxes have increased 300% I have not seen any benefit other than out Knox Butte we were included in the city so that we could be taxed more it seems. I feel like the only thing that out this way that my taxes went to that I have seen were improvements to Timber Linn Park which I believe they removed some of the lighting. Streets definitely have not improved other than the turn around which now will be insane since the city allowed over 300 new apartments – 100 plus new homes – and the new school all within 1/4 mile. Did no one even consider the traffic at Timber Ridge before this traffic mess that is being created. All I keep hearing is increases in taxes for down towns beautification and decreases in the necessary requirements for the communities well being! deduction in police and criminal awareness – fire personnel – the community swimming pool ( there is little enough recreation areas for young people ) – no approved areas for sport events like soccer and other youth events for practice . Please correct me if we are hiring more police/firemen/teachers/counselors/senior advocates instead of flowers/lighting/street improvements/multitudes of housing for a town that doesn’t have enough employment for the ones here now.

  6. Shawn Dawson says:

    Utility Fee (tax) is acceptable, if all dollars go to street repairs.
    Bond measure is unacceptable as it is not a fair tax.


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