Grover Beach could ask residents to help pay for road repairs

With half of its main streets needing major repair and fewer funds to work with, Grover Beach officials might ask local residents for help as they seek a solution to the city’s long-standing road woes.

It could cost an estimated $18.5 million to maintain all of Grover Beach’s 13 major connecting streets for the next 30 years — if they were all currently in good condition.

But about half of those streets have been found to be below a breaking point where preventive maintenance is no longer a solution, and major removal and replacement of the asphalt is necessary.

Grover Beach City Council members now want to know how much it would cost to repair those streets and return them to good condition. Later, they may seek input from residents as they brainstorm ways to raise money to pay for repairs.

Future revenue-raising ideas could include asking voters to approve a bond measure or form an assessment district to fund projects.

“At some point you do need to start the process to go out and ask the community what they’re willing to contribute,” said outgoing Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals.

The poor state of some of the city’s worn, potholed streets has long been a source of concern, debate and frustration for local officials and residents alike.

An assessment of all the city’s streets updated in 2010 found that 85 percent are in fair condition, meaning the cost to maintain these streets would spike if their conditions deteriorate 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, the city has poured local funds and grant money into projects to improve some major streets, including West Grand Avenue, North Fourth and South Fourth streets, and parts of Longbranch and Atlantic City avenues.

Some of the money came from a half-cent sales tax increase passed by voters in 2006.

But budget cuts and other changes, including the elimination of the city’s redevelopment agency, now only complicate city staff’s efforts to find a reliable long-term source of funding for streets.

The council heard an update last week about short- and long-term solutions to repair and maintain the city’s 9.6 million square feet of paved streets.

Council members unanimously agreed to move ahead with short-term repairs and directed staff to continue to research long-term funding strategies, which could include grants, loans, bond financing or other ideas.

While funding for short-term street repair is expected to remain limited — at about $200,000 a year — the city is scheduled to complete improvements on parts of three streets this fiscal year, which will end June 30.

Repairs will be made on Brighton Avenue between North 13th Street and Oak Park Boulevard, and on Nice Avenue from South 12th Street to South 13th Street. Also, improvements will be made to West Grand Avenue from Eighth to 11th streets.

Preliminary engineering work for repairs on Oak Park Boulevard will also be completed.

Money for street improvements over the next few years is anticipated to come primarily from money the city receives from state and federal fuel taxes. By 2015, City Manager Bob Perrault hopes an improved economy will increase revenues to the general fund, and some of that money could then again be used for streets.