City streets currently rank in 'fair' condition

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Bland Circle, between Fircrest Drive and Weatherhill Road is one of the worst streets in West Linn. The road is narrow and has deteriorated. The West Linn Citizens Budget Committee voted Monday to recommend the city council raise street maintenance fees by more than double in 2014, and another additional 5 percent in 2015, in an effort to upgrade the city's pavement conditions.

Under this plan, residents would pay an average of $12.11 per month — or $145.32 annually — as opposed to the $6.18 per month that the city orginally budgeted for. In 2015, that fee would raise to $12.72.

Residents currently pay about $5.89 a month for street maintenance.

These fees, according to Chief Finance Officer Richard Seals, would raise the city's annual capital street budget from $925,000 to $1.9 million, and in theory increase its pavement condition index from 61 to 70.

The pavement condition index measures the quality of city streets. A new street is ranked at 100 and a street below 25 is considered failing. West Linn's streets average a ranking of 61.

Almost half of the city's streets are in "good" condition, with 23 percent ranked "fair," 17 percent ranked "poor" and 12 percent labeled as "very poor."

A score of 70 or better is considered to be "very functional," according to Public Works Director Lance Calvert.

With an average score of 61, Calvert said, "We're not in terrible, terrible shape, but we fall in that 'fair' condition at this point."

Because the citzens budget committee, which is comprised of the city council and five citizens, does not have the authority to increase these fees, the matter will come before the city council in both a work session and council meeting. According to Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt, the fee changes will only occur if the council includes them in both the approved biennial budget and a new master fees and charges schedule.

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Bland Circle is just one of the roads in West Linn that ranks poorly on the pavement condition index.

"The citizens budget committee approval of the budget was an articulation of support for increased street investment," Wyatt said. "But (it) does not have any actionable power until the city council adopts the budget and the fees and charges."

Though the committee voted in favor of recommending the increase, Councilors Mikes Jones and Thomas Frank expressed reservations and voted against it.

Frank, for his part, cited a similar situation in 2007 when the city had a 68 PCI rating and was supposed to break 70 with a hike in fees. Instead, Frank noted, the roads have fallen to their current rating of 61.

In response, Calvert said that while it was a worthy point, much of the problem could be traced to outside cost hikes on materials as basic as asphalt.

"I’m worried about that exact same situation you’re talking about," Calvert said, "where I’m sitting there saying, 'Do this and we can increase it to this,' and lo and behold something changes out in the marketplace and all of a sudden costs skyrocket and I’m just trying to keep my head above water."

Calvert added that were it not for 2007's increase in fees, city roads might have fallen into the dangerous 40-45 PCI range.

The committee also recommended a 32-cent increase in monthly fees for sidewalk maintenance.

Moving forward, the city council requested a list of street maintenace priorities and projected costs before it makes any final decision on the budget.

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