Rotten streets

By From page A4 | February 19, 2014

Placerville’s streets are a rotten mess. Everything is falling apart in this town, including 65-year-old sewer pipes made of tar paper and really, really old water pipes.

The latter two elements of city infrastructure are due for eventual replacement, financed by some of the highest water rates in the foothills and a sales tax levy.

The roads are just falling apart. A sloppily patched pothole on Green Valley Road has lost its patch and all that remains is a line drawn about two years ago to outline where to cut and replace the pavement.

Canal Street by El Dorado High School is cracked, flaking off and full of holes. Ray Lawyer Drive was once the new boulevard in town, but it is just another alligator way.

Main Street downtown has grass growing up through the cracks. Can’t the city afford weed killer? Grass grows out of the pavement in front of City Hall. Can’t the city manager take a spray bottle of Roundup and squirt some in frontĀ of his office?

The Placerville City Council is considering a number of funding options ranging from a 1/4-cent tax to a 1/2-cent sales tax, for periods ranging from 10 years to 30 years. Meantime the city is spending $10,000 for a pollster to poll its residents.

A pollster might give the city some assurance on moving ahead with a sales tax plan. What city residents need is a list of streets among the city’s 54 miles of roads that have the highest priority for repaving. What streets can have their lives extended by filling potholes and cracks and covering with chip-and-seal? Put a priority on every one of these streets and a cost, estimated in 2014, 2015, 2016 dollars, etc. Then figure out what sales tax will be needed to supplement the paltry $309,600 gas tax income the city estimates it will receive in the budget year that ends June 30. Don’t put a sunset clause on it. The city will need to keep taking care of its streets for more than 30 years.

The Police Department’s sales tax is expected to produce $847,000 to maintain a 17-person police department. How much does the city need to rehab and chip-seal its streets? The sales tax for city sewer and water lines generates $541,000. That doesn’t look like much of a capital improvement fund for 45 miles of water lines and 60 miles of sewer lines.

Forget about funding a new police building and fixing up the old catsup-and-mustard city hall. Just do the roads. There are more creative possibilities for these two capital improvement projects and they don’t involve raising taxes. And don’t even mention utility tax. We have fought two city managers to a standstill on a utility tax, with one of them leaving in a huff about failing to get a utility tax. Our opposition to this is unwavering.

Parking lots have a budgeted income of $119,000. Use that to maintain pavement in the parking lots.

The City Council needs to whittle down its four alternative sales tax schemes. People just want to hear the facts. How much do the roads need? How much does it take to accomplish one project per year that will improve the appearance of the town, the quality of life here, the longevity of the street and the quality of the driving experience? When City Hall figures that out then it will know how much sales tax to ask for.

Be practical. We don’t want the streets paved in gold. Many of the streets look like the highway to hell, but neither do we want to pay for a highway to heaven. Just get us from one end of town to another without rattling our brains into a concussion and our suspension into the repair shop. Some of these streets are a tripping hazard to pedestrians as dangerous as falling on one’s head on the slopestyle course at Sochi.

Mountain Democrat

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