Story last updated at 2:33 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2002

City proposal would expand road upkeep
by Joel Gay
Staff Writer

New tax revenue from annexation is paving the way for improved road maintenance, not only in the newly annexed area but on city streets that never had any attention before.

If the Homer City Council approves a plan introduced Tuesday at its June 10 meeting, the city's road maintenance budget will more than double as it takes over plowing and grading on an additional 22 miles of roads <> 15 miles in the annexed area that had previously been maintained by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, plus seven miles within the old city limits that had previously been ignored.

"Thank you for your commitment to doing the right thing," Mt. Augustine Drive resident Cathy Venecamp told the council Tuesday.

She and several neighbors said their road, located off Baycrest Hill, had never received city maintenance in the past, and were grateful to be included in the new plan.

Public works director Carey Meyer said that when he first looked at taking over road maintenance in the annexed area, it was clear that many of the roads were not built to city standards for full maintenance. By code, such streets must be 24 feet wide and have a thick covering of gravel on top of road-building textile. But because the city had promised to maintain roads in the annexed area, "that meant we had to do something for the roads in the city" that had not previously met the maintenance standard, he said.

On Tuesday, the council supported his proposal to split road maintenance into two classes: city and rural. City roads built to the standard will continue to get their past level of service. Rural roads that don't meet the construction standard will now be graded at least three times a year and plowed within 24 hours of a 3-inch snowfall, and drainage maintenance will be improved through new ditches, cleaning out old ditches and erosion control.

To accomplish all that, Meyer proposes that over the next two years the city buy another grader, a big plow truck and sander, heavy duty snow blower, plus a bulldozer and loader, and hire two new operators. By 2003, it will cost the city an additional $316,000 a year, with revenues coming from the annexed area. Currently the city spends about $305,000 on maintaining some 20 miles of roads year-round and another three or four miles in winter only.

The council will hold a public hearing on the plan June 10. If the plan passes, work would begin this summer.

Also Tuesday, the council approved introduction of a measure that sets property taxes in the annexed area at 4.125 mills for the remainder of the year. Starting Jan. 1, 2003, property taxes there will rise to match the city level, with is currently 5.5 mills.

City Manager Ron Drathman said Tuesday, however, that the administration will look into a reducing property taxes when it takes up the 2003 budget this fall.