When residents are driven to make DIY repairs to city streets — which is happening now in Grover Beach — that’s graphic evidence that something must be done.
Shoveling sand into potholes is akin to sticking a finger in a hole in a dike. And in Grover Beach, it’s not just an occasional “dike” that’s in trouble; more than 65 percent of Grover’s streets have been rated “poor” or “failed,” according to a standardized pavement rating system.
Simply put, the city’s meager general fund budget of around $7 million per year will never stretch far enough to fix the city’s network of streets. For that reason, city officials have put a $48 million bond measure, K-14, on the November ballot.
The Tribune strongly supports its passage.
The longer the city delays, the worse the streets will become and, as construction costs rise, it will only get more expensive to fix them down the road.
Meanwhile, the deteriorating streets will continue to damage vehicles, put the city at risk of being sued, and even interfere with response times for emergency crews.
The city would not ask its residents to take on this debt if it weren’t absolutely necessary. Nor would we endorse it if there were another way to fund the repairs. To put it bluntly, the city has no other resources to draw upon — and, no, generating more money for streets by reducing it in other areas isn’t an option. Grover Beach already is remarkably frugal. It is the county’s fourth-largest city in terms of population, yet has the smallest staff, with around 50 employees. Morro Bay, for example, has twice that number.
Grover Beach is trying to build its revenue base by attracting more businesses — efforts include the lodge/ convention center proposed for Highway 1 — but it’s going to be hard to do that if the streets are amess.
Realistically, the bond is not going to be an easy sell.
For one, the measure needs two-thirds approval to pass. That’s a high bar, although it is encouraging that in a telephone survey of 300 Grover Beach voters, 70 percent said they would definitely or probably vote yes, and another 5 percent were leaning that way.
Cost to property owners is another factor that could make passage difficult. It will take 45 years to pay off all of the bonds and, because they’ll be issued incrementally, the amount charged will vary from year to year. In 20 years, the cost could be as high as $153 a year per $100,000 of assessed value. Over the next few years, though, it will be much less — $25 per $100,000.
The city could have opted for asmaller amount. We believe, though, that the City Council was wise to be realistic about what it will take to get this huge job done.
With $48 million, the city will be able to rehab 29 miles of residential streets, plus some major streets that are uneven, cracked and potholed.
In fact, $48 million is still on the conservative side; a consultant estimated that to upgrade all city streets to “very good” condition, the city would need to spend $8.6 million a year for 10 years — $86 million.
Decent roads are something we often take for granted, but they are critical to a community’s well-being. Without them, the city will sink.
We strongly urge Grover Beach residents to vote yes on Measure K-14.