Mayor: City may need new tax to pay for infrastructure projects

Posted 1/21/20

Needed improvements and maintenance to the City of Powell’s infrastructure will likely require a 1 percent specific purpose tax to pay for it all, Mayor John Wetzel said recently.

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Mayor: City may need new tax to pay for infrastructure projects

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Needed improvements and maintenance to the City of Powell’s infrastructure will likely require a 1 percent specific purpose tax to pay for it all, Mayor John Wetzel said recently.

At the top of the list of priorities is slurry seal on the city’s streets and replacement of 40-year-old cast iron water lines under them.

Slurry seal processes extend the life of roads. Powell Streets Superintendent Gary Butts said it costs about $2.15 per square yard to reseal a street, and it should be done ideally once every five years. The city maintains just over 1 million square yards of street surface, so for the best protection for city streets, the city should be resealing approximately 216,400 square yards every year. In the last 10 years, however, Powell has only resealed about 145,000 square yards per year.

Last summer, Butts said, the area the city resealed had gone eight years without the treatment. Without more funding, streets will end up going nine or 10 years. At that point, Butts said, roads begin to break down rapidly and will need to be completely rebuilt — which is much more expensive.

To ensure no road in Powell is going more than five years without slurry seal, the city would need to spend close to $1.7 million to catch up, Butts said.

The city also needs to upgrade corners with sidewalk ramps that are wheelchair accessible and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. With 500 corners (four per intersection), the total cost to replace all of them would be around $2.6 milllion.

Butts said there was another $375,000 in other maintenance needs as well — and the challenges might not all be financial.

“I have a hard time finding contractors to do five or six of them [intersections] in a year,” he said.

The city also needs to replace 44 miles of water main. At a city council meeting earlier this month, Water and Wastewater Superintendent Ty McConnell estimated the cost for total replacement of all the old lines would be around $23 million.

“It’s constantly on our radar,” Wetzel said of the water main issue. “It’s a juggling act to see how far you can stretch that further.”

The mayor said it would take a lot of work to pass a 1 percent sales tax to cover some of these needs, as the process to pass such a tax requires voter approval. Wetzel said convincing voters that the money is needed is always a challege.

“When we come forward and ask for more money, we’re not trying to horde. We’re tring to do the best for our citizens,” he explained.

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