Grover Beach moves ahead on $48 million bond measure to fix streets

Grover Beach City Hall
Grover Beach City Hall dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Two photos flashed onto the screen during a special Grover Beach City Council meeting Wednesday, each showing rough, cracked streets and potholes.

These particular streets — not identified by name, but representative of the city's perennial road woes — are failing, a consultant said who reviewed Grover Beach's 10 million square feet of pavement.

"We didn't have to look very far to find those streets," said Joe Ririe, a senior principal engineer with Pavement Engineering Inc.

City officials have said they don't have enough money to rehabilitate all of Grover Beach's deteriorating roads — even though all of them could fail within six to 10 years if nothing is done — so on Wednesday the council decided to turn to its residents.

Council members voted 4-1 to move ahead with the process to put a $48 million bond measure on the Nov. 4 ballot, which would fund rehabilitation of all 29 miles of residential streets as well as some major thoroughfares.

Councilman Bill Nicolls dissented, saying that he would prefer pursuing a $38 million bond to fund projects just for all residential streets.

The council could still change its mind on the bond amount; the issue will come back to the council on July 7.

If the council moves forward with a $48 million bond, property owners would pay an average of $165 per $100,000 of assessed value over 25 years. A $38 million bond would drop the annual payments to an average of $130 per $100,000 of assessed value for the same time period. The bond measure probably would be issued in increments, so annual costs for property owners would be lower at the beginning of the bond period.

The annual tax would be based on a property’s assessed value, not market value.

Results from a recent survey show support for a general obligation bond measure ranging from $27 million to $48 million. In a recent phone survey of 300 registered Grover Beach voters, 70 percent said they would definitely or probably vote for a $48 million bond measure (another 5 percent were leaning yes.)

Whether those numbers would hold up at the ballot box is uncertain. The measure would need a two-thirds vote to pass (the city has 6,160 registered voters).

But some speakers at Wednesday's meeting showed strong support for a bond.

"Before you even talked I supported this," Gracia Bello said. "I've lived here since 1956. You must do the roads and you must do them now."

The council needs to stress the value that improved streets will have on property values, former Grover Beach Councilman Dave Ekbom said, as well as impart the importance of the bond measure.

"I'm going to support this I think but we need some brutally honest conversations," Ekbom said. "You need to say to the people that we will never fix your streets; you need to step up now or stop complaining about it."

Currently, 71 percent of the city’s residential streets and 58 percent of its major streets are in poor or failing conditions, according to Pavement Engineering Inc., which recently analyzed Grover Beach’s roadways.

In an unrelated matter, the council also decided to abandon its consideration of a controversial ballot measure asking voters to change Grover Beach from a general law city to a charter city.

The issue had drawn criticism from labor union representatives, who were concerned that city officials might include a section allowing themselves to exempt the city from paying the prevailing wage on certain public projects.

The City Council agreed with city staff that pursuing both the charter measure and a bond at the same time would be too difficult.