Aging water infrastructure a top priority

West Linn Mayor John Kovash gave his third state of the city address March 6 at Oregon Golf Club to the West Linn Chamber of Commerce. Fiscal responsibility, a stable government and preparing for the future are the three overriding themes Kovash has carried throughout his tenure in office.

Kovash called his 20 months in office a challenge and a pleasure. He also recognized city manager Chris Jordan, the city council and all the volunteers in the city.

'Our volunteers are wonderful and an integral part of West Linn,' said Kovash.

He started his speech by outlining what was accomplished in 2011, including passing the police station ballot, starting the Highway 43 visioning process and developing a goal to address the city's aging water infrastructure.

'I think 2011 was a good year for West Linn. We had less drama and we made some real progress,' said Kovash.

He then outlined the city council's five goals for 2012. The goals are to improve economic development; continue the Highway 43 visioning process; work with the task force on the aquatic/recreation center proposal; develop a master plan for the Blue Heron property if Water Environmental Services is successful in buying it; addressing water infrastructure; and ensuing the city receives maximum value from the police station bond.

As for the aquatic center, Kovash said, 'People have been working on this project for 10 to 15 years and we may finalize that project this year.'

When Kovash spoke about the water system he showed the audience a couple examples of rusting pipes and how badly they were deteriorated.

Kovash said a top priority is to replace the 100-year-old Bolton Reservoir at the cost of $8 million and then start repairing and replacing water lines for $10 million.

'Our water rate increases are capped at 5 percent per year and our current water rates generate barely enough money to deal with emergency water line breaks,' said Kovash. 'We are spending a lot of money fixing these pipes because we don't have money to replace them.'

Kovash also explored several areas of concern, like fiscal stability and transportation.

'While the financial position of the city is solid in the short run, it is the long run that concerns the cities and counties of Oregon,' he said. Kovash likened the city to a business and how revenue must outpace expenses.

'I am also concerned with the condition of our streets and Highway 43,' said Kovash. The city's transportation plan has identified $20 million in unfunded improvements to city streets, plus $21 million for improvements to Highway 43.

'This is not a pretty picture and transportation affects and limits our options for the future of West Linn,' he said. 'Transportation is going to drive whatever else we're going to do. We need to take a look at this on a long-term basis and see what we can do.'

The mayor did a little bragging during his speech, highlighting the Leadership Academy, a proposed teen center and the 300 volunteers who turned up at Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

He touched on the city's new electronic records management system that is being implemented, a paperless traffic ticketing system and switching its government access TV provider.

'We're also going to have a party,' said Kovash mentioning West Linn's centennial next year. 'West Linn is going to be 100 years old and we're going to have a party.'

Overall, the mayor called the state of the city stable and preparing for the future.

'Essentially, the state of the city is pretty good. It's one of the best places to live,' said Kovash.

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