It has been several weeks since my last NPR Note. Between the demands of my day job, the time spent on the budget process for the city, and life in general, quiet time to compose my thoughts and write about my vision for the city has been in short supply.
The city’s fiscal year runs from October 1st through September 30th. We finalized the budget a bit later than I’d have liked, but we got it done before the start of the fiscal year. We even managed to cut the millage rate a bit.
The city’s five year capital plan gives you the clearest road map of where we are headed as a city. Work on Orange Lake, proposed renovations to the Recreation and Aquatic Center, a proposed parking structure, and a plan for fixing up our streets and keeping them in shape are all parts of this planning process.
The road improvement plan elicited a lot of negative public comments. As proposed by staff, it simply didn’t pass the “sniff test” and the council voted unanimously to reject it and go back to the drawing board. The concept is simple: Instead of hitting property owners on any given street with a massive assessment every 20 years or so when their street gets repaved, why not charge EVERYONE a little bit each year to keep all the roads up.
The proposed plan only covered 5 years instead of the 20 years that a typical road lasts. Some folks would have paid in with no idea of when, or if, their street would be done. The plan also ignored the folks that had just paid for a new road, or perhaps were still paying for their road. The city has historically paid for part of the cost of the paving through gas tax receipts. The exact percentage has varied over the decades. I’m confident that we can come up with something that is both affordable and equitable for everyone. You will see a workshop announced in the coming months to kick this one around further.
Work on Orange Lake should start in the not too distant future. A significant part of the work will be paid for with a grant. The plan is to “muck out” the goo at the bottom of the lake, cleaning up the water quality, and getting rid of a dead zone that exists below the surface. A pair of docks will allow you to walk out onto the lake. It’s going to be very nice once it is done.
The city has been considering some much needed improvements to the Recreation and Aquatic Center. We had sticker shock last fall and sent the proposal back to staff to try to make it more affordable. We were in the process of spending a LOT of money to remake Sims Park and so spending millions more to update the Recreation and Aquatic Center seemed a bit over the top. The public response to the park after it reopened proved that we made the right decision by going out on a limb and approving a very ambitious plan for the park. A similar question now confronts us regarding the Recreation and Aquatic Center. Do we spend 2.5 million dollars to do the job right or do we cut corners with “make do” improvements. After a workshop a few weeks ago, I’m pretty sure that a majority of the council is willing to at least consider doing the complete project either all at once or in stages. It is not a unanimous sentiment, but then neither was the decision to spend the money to rebuild Sims Park.
Building a parking structure is one capital expenditure that we’re going to have to plan for sooner rather than later. If you went to this spring’s Chasco Fiesta or this past weekend’s Bike Fest, you no doubt noticed all of the parking on the old Baptist Church property. The Residences at Orange Lake will be coming out of the ground early next year and you won’t be able to park in the middle of a construction site. We’ve absolutely got to address the parking issue.
Also on the capital plan is a new fire station to replace the two we’ve currently got. Consolidating fire department functions under one roof should be more efficient. I’m pretty sure that the library already has ideas of how they could expand into the existing fire station 1. This one is a bit further out in the future as no decision has been made on where a new station might be situated.
I’m excited about where we are headed as a city. We just need to be brave enough to continue to step forward and make things happen.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor