In addressing the public's outcry for sidewalks, Public Works Director Mark Russell has requested the Land Use and Environmental Committee and the Finance Committee to evaluate sidewalk policy and the Transportation Master Plan's funding for next year's agenda.
Russell was at the Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday, November 16, to discuss the 2023 work plan items, including a review of the Transportation Master Plan.
He said the staff will research what other cities are doing regarding sidewalk repair policy and will compile a possible range of options and implications of those options and discuss those with the Land Use and Environmental Committee.
They expected the committee to come up with a recommendation to the full council and implement a new sidewalk repair policy.
The Public Works department, Russell said, is taking no action on sidewalks because they deem it important to have a policy discussion first.
He added that they are considering setting aside some year-end funds for possibly implementing a one-time repair program when the sidewalk policy discussion is complete.
Finance committee review
According to Russell, the Transportation Master Plan (TMP), which was adopted last year, has a lot of unfunded needs. He proposed that the Finance Committee review those needs and the TMP's current funding with specific consideration to an ongoing update of the pavement management system and the new sidewalk construction.
"We would concentrate on those two things, identify new revenue sources, and hopefully define and implement funding strategy that might have some new funding sources," he told the Finance Committee members.
Russell sees that it may take a year before they can act on the pavement management system and sidewalk construction. "We think it will take several meetings in 2023, or even 2024, especially if we need to go to voters for additional revenue or taxes. We feel this is probably more than a year's worth of work."
He is proposing to start the committee-level discussions on transportation funding as early as February.
2004 VUT measure
Russell said the voted utility tax (VUT) measure in 2004 primarily funded new sidewalk construction. Aside from the sidewalks list, the measure also allowed sidewalk maintenance funding.
"The measure itself did not have any specific projects. It was in the associated documents when they were advertising the measure. That had the list of projects. So it wasn't in the ballot itself," the Public Works director noted.
With the city council's approval – and confirmed by legal staff, Russell said they used the VUT revenue and "made a decision to vary from the initial list."
He added that all the initial ballot projects are still included in the master plan list.
In 2004, Russell cited that the public strongly supported working on sidewalks on major streets with major destinations, bus stops, school activities, and other things. "It was just 20 years [ago], and things have changed. The needs of the community have changed."
He underscored that some of the projects in the ballot measure are either completed or still on the list, but not gone.
"The list of the TMP is now our sideline. The 2004 measure has been superseded, in my opinion. We did not lose any projects. We reprioritize based on new data and criteria and public input through the master plan process," he said.
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