The city council held a study session on Tuesday afternoon to learn more about the funding gap and the potential sources of revenue it can seek to slow the deterioration of city streets and buildings and complete improvements. legally mandated city sidewalks resulting from a settlement in an ADA lawsuit. The latter will require the installation of a total of 3,500 new ramps over the next 13 months, which will take priority over the repair of sidewalks.
Long Beach also owes billions in city employee pension contributions, tree maintenance, stormwater protection and the looming question of what to do with the Queen Mary.
But on Tuesday, the focus was on one of the city’s biggest expenses, repairs to streets and alleys. Public Works Director Eric Lopez estimated the total needed to repair the city’s streets at $ 1.77 billion, which is the level of funding needed to bring the average score of the State Index to the city causeway to 85.
The index rates city streets on a scale of 1 to 100, with the highest score representing a street in excellent condition and the lowest being a street that has failed and needs to be completely rebuilt, the type of street repair the most expensive.
The cost of repairing an excellent street is around $ 2 per square foot while a poor or very poor street can range from $ 17 to $ 30 per square foot.
The city-wide pavement condition score is 58, with only 13% of streets rated as “excellent” and 53% of city streets rated “fair to marginal” or worse.
Lopez said the city needed to spend around $ 58 million per year to maintain current street conditions, but the city instead spent around $ 33 million per year on repairs and paving the streets, which drove up the at 26% the backlog of poor and very poor streets of the city.
“You definitely don’t want to go over 20%,” Lopez said.
The council could decide whether to issue bonds to help speed up the pace of street repairs, something that was launched in November as a way to save taxpayer dollars by fixing more streets faster.
City manager Tom Modica said the bond may offer short-term benefits, but could force council to cut other services to pay off debt service. But Modica said it’s something the board is considering early next year.
He also advised board members to reduce their wishlists to a shortlist in anticipation of the decrease in Measure A funding over the next five years.
Measure A will be reduced by 25% starting in fiscal 2023, so the city can pay its share of a county-wide tax that was levied to pay for services and housing for homeless people . The Measure A sales tax increase has consistently provided the city with approximately $ 60 million to invest in municipal infrastructure and public safety. Modica said that figure could drop to $ 38 million next year.
“We’re going to have a lot of tough talks over the next year,” Modica said.
Modica also said the city would prioritize future projects based on a number of criteria such as the number of residents they will impact, the urgency of the project, the number of jobs it creates and their degree of “ready to use”.
He presented scenarios ranging from six months to 18 months, adding that anything beyond that would not be considered ready to be implemented. The city has about $ 293 million in immediate repairs to the facilities, according to the presentation.
Council members were mixed over their support for issuing bonds to pay for street repairs. City Councilor Stacy Mungo Flanigan, who originally asked city management to review the funding source last year, said it could be an opportunity to save taxpayer dollars.
But City Councilor Rex Richardson said he was hesitant to potentially put public safety departments on the chopping block to divert Measure A funds into street bonds.
Richardson referred to the restoration of a Long Beach Fire Department rescue unit in North Long Beach. Funded by Measure A, improving response times in his district through catering is something he said he didn’t want to be cut.
“What I wouldn’t want to do is leave that to a future board if we make this decision here,” said Richardson.
The council’s choice to take the bond route may depend on the level of external funding the city receives.
The city has successfully lobbied for federal and state funding in the past, including the roughly $ 250 million it received in COVID-19 aid that has helped balance this year’s budget and postpone costs. planned cuts of $ 30 million through next year.
It has secured some state funding for park projects and may be in line with federal help to address some major city corridors, but how future infrastructure funding might be channeled through the federal government is not clear.
Congress is currently debating a massive infrastructure bill, which could become law in the coming months, but funding could come in the form of grants the city should apply for rather than the direct funding it has received over the course of the year. of the past year and a half. .
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