Conditt plans a second Town Hall on street funding

The Estacada City Council is proceeding toward getting a measure on the November ballot asking voters for a 3 cent per gallon May-September seasonal gas tax.

The money generated from the gas tax would be dedicated to the street fund for construction, reconstruction, improvement and repair of city streets, roads and public highways in Estacada.

City Councilor Michele Conditt has publicly advocated a gas tax as a way to boost the city’s street fund enough to repair Estacada’s streets.

The city’s street fund is fed by money from the state gas tax, which is distributed to cities based on population.

However, city officials say this is never enough to cover necessities and each year the city must transfer money from the general fund to the street fund.

“The street fund has no stable funding source,” Conditt said of the present situation.

“The only time we are lucky enough to do a big street project is when we get a grant,” City Recorder Denise Carey said.

City officials have long considered the scant street fund a problem.

“Our streets are hitting the failing stage,” City Councilor Sean Drinkwine said in April 2013. “They’ve been in disrepair for years.”

The proposed seasonal gas tax is expected to bring between $35,000-55,000 into the city’s street fund annually.

The measure includes record-keeping requirements for Estacada’s gas stations.

Fuel dealers would face fines for not paying the tax, but would receive credits for over-payments.

As for patrons, filling up a 20 gallon tank would cost an extra 60 cents with the proposed tax.

If the customer fills the tank three times a month, the gas tax would run them a total of $1.80 a month.

City officials point out that Sandy also has a gas tax which would make it illogical for Estacada drivers to get fuel there should Estacada pass its own tax.

The council was expected to consider and approve the ballot title language during its meeting on Monday, Aug. 11.

However, as the councilors had just received the ballot title from the city attorney earlier that day,

Estacada Mayor Brent Dodrill asked for more time to study the material before voting for or against approval.

Another meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 13 and the council approved the ballot title then.

The public has seven business days to challenge it.

On Aug. 11, Dodrill and Councilor Michele Conditt told the Estacada News they had received some negative feedback for the proposed tax so far.

Both said they had been questioned about why the city had pursued other projects rather than funding street repairs.

Conditt explained that money is usually tied to specific purposes.

Grants for the cycling plaza that will be installed near City Hall cannot be redistributed to street funding, for instance.

Urban Renewal Funds, which are financing the revamping of public amenities on Broadway Street as an implementation of the Estacada Downtown Riverside Area plan, also cannot be switched to another project she said.

And improvements to Highway 224 were funded through the Oregon Department of Transportation, not city funds, Conditt added.

Conditt held a Town Hall meeting on July 28 in an attempt to explain how the city may use money to repair streets and the state of the street fund.

She was disappointed at the sparse attendance as she is confident that citizens will approve of the seasonal gas tax once they are educated on the situation.

Conditt announced that she will hold a second Town Hall meeting on the same topic 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, in the Council Chambers of Estacada City Hall, 475 S.E. Main Street.

Citizens share their views on the proposed 3-cent per gallon May-September seasonal gas tax:

Brent Leathers

Brent Leathers, vice president and general manager of Leathers Fuels, which owns a Shell Station at 605 W. Wade Street in Estacada, along with 23 other stations throughout Oregon, said he opposes the proposed seasonal gas tax.

Leathers said the creation of separate gas taxes in different cities and counties creates “competitive islands” all with heavy, individualized reporting requirements for each station.

“Generally, we oppose all of them,” he said. “Obviously any local business that relies on gasoline is going to oppose it.”

Leathers suspects Estacada’s proposed 3-cent per gallon increase may drive customers away.

When asked how he thinks Estacada should come up with the money to repair its streets without the tax, Leathers said he would rather the problem was addressed at the state level.

“I don’t want to come off as an opponent of trying to repair roadways, because honestly, that’s how we get our customers,” he said. “What we prefer to see is the state have a uniform gas tax.”

If cities aren’t getting enough money to repair their streets from the state gas tax, then the distribution mechanism and rates at the state level should be addressed, Leathers said.

If the state reformed the gas tax and increased rates statewide, Leathers said he would be in favor of it.

That way, Leathers said, gas stations also wouldn’t be burdened by “piecemeal” reporting requirements unique to various individual jurisdictions.

Douglas Jamieson

Douglas Jamieson, who serves as the commander of the American Legion Carl Douglas Post No. 74 and on the board of the Estacada Community Center, would be for the tax.

“The city has to do something to fix the streets,” he said.

Jamieson favors the tax as the burden would be on anyone who gets gas in town, not just residents.

However, Jamieson lives in unincorporated Estacada and admitted that he already usually gets gas outside of Estacada.

Dean Holden

Dean Holden, the retired owner of Dean Holden Enterprises, is firmly against the proposed seasonal gas tax.

“I don’t like taxes,” he said.

Holden said that while he is concerned about the condition of Estacada’s roads, he feels the city should have found a way to use the money in the street fund “properly” though he did not identify an instance in which he felt the funds had been misspent.

Holden added that most locals already go out of town to buy less-expensive gas.

Paul Strobel

State Farm Insurance Agent Paul Strobel said that while he sympathizes with the extra burden the proposed tax would place on local gas stations, he would vote for the gas tax.

“I’ve got some issues with the road even right here in front of our office (on Main Street),” he said. “They say ‘There’s nothing we can do about it until we get more money.’

“To me (the seasonal gas tax) seems reasonable and hopefully it will pay off,” he added.

Betty Veveiros

Betty Veveiros, a local CPA and member of the Estacada Development Association board of directors, lives outside of Estacada but said she thinks the seasonal gas tax could be a good revenue source for the city, as it would tap into tourists going up river.

However, Veveiros admitted to rarely purchasing gas in Estacada, as it is already more expensive than in surrounding areas.

Roger Chapman

Roger Chapman, owner of Chapman’s Three In One Station, said he had mixed feelings about the proposed tax.

While he is for finding a way to boost the city’s street fund, he isn’t thrilled about the prospect of raising fuel prices for five months out of the year and potentially driving away customers.

“I’m probably right in the middle,” he said.

*This article is an updated version of “Council faces tight deadlines to get gas tax on ballot” which ran in the Aug. 14 print edition of the Estacada News. The article was edited and updated to represent the most current information before being posted online.

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