MONTPELIER — A proposal to deal with deteriorating streets in Montpelier could raise the tax rate a total of 10 cents over the next five years unless other cuts are made to the city budget.
At the City Council meeting Wednesday, Councilor Thierry Guerlain presented a report from the Capital Improvements Projects Committee with a recommendation on how to address the city’s streets problem.
In September City Manager William Fraser told the council $7 million in repairs were needed following an assessment of the streets last summer. Fraser suggested bonding the $7 million in order to fix the problem as quickly as possible.
Guerlain and other councilors are against bonding for streets, saying the problem will just return in a few years.
The committee — that Guerlain, Councilors Andy Hooper, Angela Timpone were a part of — came up with the idea of adding more money gradually into the capital improvements projects fund.
Fraser said Thursday the plan he will present to the council as part of the budget will call for increasing the fund $166,300, which will increase the tax rate two cents every year for the next five years unless cut are made elsewhere in the budget. He said that will bring the fund up from $1.5 million to $2.3 million, which should be enough to cover the repairs of the streets.
There are 56 miles of streets in Montpelier. The city is responsible for 44 miles of them, with the other 12 miles being state streets.
Guerlain said at the meeting Wednesday that a well-maintained street should have a life of 22 years. So his proposal is to repair the streets at a rate of two miles per year.
Fraser said Thursday that this plan is similar to one implemented by the council in the late-1990s. Taking a longer approach, as opposed to the quicker bond proposed by Fraser, would require making the worst streets the priority year over year.
“It might take longer to get them all fixed, but it is smarter financially,” Fraser said.
The money does not only go to streets; it also finances maintenance for sidewalks, retaining walls, parking lots, equipment such as vehicles, and drains and culverts for which the city is responsible.
While some councilors are opposed to bonding for streets, the commmittee proposal does call for some bonding. Projects such as replacing drains, culverts and retaining walls would be bonded for as those items typically have a 30- to 50-year lifespan, well past a typical 20-year bond. Keeping this bonding option open lowers the cost of the year-to-year maintenance for the cities infrastructure as the repairs for those projects would not be figured into the budget.
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