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City council asked to consider making streets a utility

PENDLETON, Oregon – Public Works Director Bob Patterson gave a complete report on the history of the condition of streets in Pendleton to the City Council at a workshop this week. He discussed the lengths the city has gone to in finding funds for street repairs, and he had a sobering look at the future.

He said that considering all the federal and state gas taxes, possible grants, and the assessed $5 monthly utility fee, there is still nowhere near enough money to keep all of the streets and roads in good condition.

“Staff is recommending the city council treat our overall street system as a utility and consider charging a cost similar to what we do for water and sewer,” Patterson said.

He said there is currently $825,000 funded for street preservation, but at that rate of funding pavement conditions would decrease from the current 61 rating to 53 and deferred maintenance would reach $38.6 million by the year 2028.

Options presented to the council were working with the state and the federal government in an attempt to get a bigger chunk of their gas taxes, or either double or triple the $5-a-month utility fee. Another suggestion was to ask the voters to approve a $0.01 or higher gas tax.

None of those solutions provide as much as the recommendation that streets be considered a city utility. Currently the base charge for water service is about $30, and it’s $40 for sewer.

“We’re talking about numbers that are very similar to what we have as base charges for our water and sewer systems,” he said. “It’s a hard number to discuss, but we’re going to continue having that discussion.”

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