City hopes to improve fair pavement index rating

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lat year, Bland Circle, between Fircrest Drive and Weatherhill Road was rated as one of the worst streets in West Linn.Residents can expect a substantial hike in street maintenance fees come September.

The West Linn City Council on Monday approved a master fee schedule that includes a 75 percent increase in street fees to repair some of the city’s most dilapidated roads.

Effective Sept. 1, street fees will raise from $5.89 to $10.31 per month. Fees would then increase by 5 percent each fiscal year from 2015 to 2018, with the overarching goal being to increase the city’s pavement condition index (PCI) from a “fair” 61 to a “very functional” 70 or higher.

On the PCI scale, a new street is ranked at 100 and a street below 25 is considered failing.”We’re talking about the value of our homes and the livability,” West Linn Mayor John Kovash said. “If our streets are not well-maintained, the value of our community and the value of our homes starts to go down. It’s a livability and value issue, which I think is something we really need to invest in.”

The final vote in favor of the fee increase was unanimous at 3-0. Council President Mike Jones and Councilor Jenni Tan were absent from the meeting.

At a work session on Aug. 5, the council agreed to raise fees by either 50, 75 or 100 percent but wanted to hear more information before coming to a final decision.

During Monday’s meeting, Public Works Director Lance Calvert presented details about each of the three options and offered estimates of what could be accomplished as fees increased.

The 50 percent option, Calvert said, would mostly take care of the streets in dire need of repair. The 75 and 100 percent increases, meanwhile, would fund those same urgent repairs while also supporting more long-term work between 2015 and 2018.

“If you look at PCI,” Calvert said, “you whittle away at streets in really poor condition while also targeting streets that are really cost-effective to keep in good condition.

“From an engineering standpoint, it’s really a function of cost, and the more you put into it, the more you get out.”

Asked by Councilor Thomas Frank which of the three options would most likely bring the city’s PCI above 70, Calvert replied that it was mostly a matter of timeframe.

“I think all three will get us there,” Calvert said. “It’s just a matter of how much time it takes us to get there.”

Calvert added that the plan is to measure the city’s PCI every other year with the help of a third party — the funding for which is already in the city’s biennial budget. Before approving the 75 percent fee increase, councilors also stressed the importance of keeping the public informed with up-to-the-minute details.

“Since this is a significant increase, we really owe it to the citizens to have these updated lists (of streets),” Councilor Jody Carson said. “It’s important that each year, they know what streets we’re doing. ... The more information we can provide about where their street is on the list, the better.”

“I would encourage the finance department to look at ways to limit risk,” Councilor Thomas Frank said. “Look at long-term contracts to mitigate the risk of, for instance, rising oil prices.”

The West Linn Citizens Budget Committee voted in May to double street fees in 2014, from $5.89 per month to $12.11. The city, meanwhile, originally planned for a 5 percent increase from $5.89 to $6.18.

However, when the 2014-15 biennial budget was passed in June, the council directed Jordan to amend the proposed budget to include no increase on street maintenance fees until the issue could be revisited later in the summer.The new fees go into effect Sept. 1, and Finance Director Richard Seals said they should be reflected on utility bills for the Sept. 1 to Oct. 1 period.

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