Fixing potholes in Grover Beach could cost taxpayers money

clambert@thetribunenews.comDecember 6, 2013 

Grover Beach’s potholed streets have long been a source of frustration for residents, a campaign promise for local politicians and a jarring experience for anyone driving on the city’s wide residential avenues.

While the city usually spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on repair projects, that’s not nearly enough to bring Grover Beach’s vast network of roads — totaling nearly 9.3 million square feet of asphalt — back to good condition.

On Monday, city officials plan to hold a workshop to discuss an idea that has been brought up before: turning to residents for help.

“Ultimately a significant infusion of cash will be necessary to have any impact on the long-term solution of street repair,” City Manager Bob Perrault said in a news release announcing the workshop.

Solutions could include a general obligation bond, forming an assessment district, or other options. Council members won’t make any decisions at the meeting but will hear a presentation on street conditions, the city’s repair program, short- and long-term repair options and funding possibilities.

“Ultimately, they will have to decide whether or not to proceed with a long-term approach and how to finance that,” Perrault said.

Mayor Debbie Peterson said she thinks residents may have reached the stage where they’re ready to help pay to improve city streets.

“We really want to hear from the public,” she said.

Part of Grover Beach’s perennial street problems stem from the way many of the streets were constructed — on sand.

“I’m not sure how many, but a lot of streets were just paved over” either before or around the time the city was incorporated in 1959, Public Works Director Greg Ray said.

Also, Grover Beach streets are numerous and wide, and the city’s revenue base just isn’t big enough to keep up with the cost of repairs.

“We’re primarily a residential community,” Ray said, “and we don’t have the extent of hotels and tourist income that some of the adjacent communities have to sustain a larger network of streets than the city needed.”

Previous staff reports have pegged the cost of fixing all the streets at more than $35 million, while the average cost to fix a city block is estimated at $150,000 to $250,000, depending on the road condition.

An assessment of all the city’s streets updated in 2010 found that 85 percent are in fair shape, meaning the cost to maintain them would spike if their conditions deteriorated further.

The cost to maintain all of the city’s streets for 30 years — if all were in good condition now — is estimated at $48 million, or $1.6 million a year. In recent years and before the recession, the city budgeted an average of $500,000 to $700,000 annually for street repair, according to a news release.

That amount fell during more difficult budget times. More recently, Ray said the city budgeted $309,179 in the 2012-13 fiscal year and later added an additional $100,000 from a separate fund.

Much of the money was later transferred to grant-funded projects to leverage state and federal grants.

In the 2013-14 year, the city budgeted $400,000 for street work, although the funds have not yet been spent and could roll into next fiscal year. Looking ahead, Ray said, the budget is projected at $270,000 a year.

The workshop will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at 154 S. Eighth St. For information, go to www.grover.org.

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