The Mean Streets of Bremerton

Everyone is welcome at Wednesday night’s city government meeting to listen
to a presentation about a possible tax hike to pay for fixing Bremerton’s
roads, but it’s not a town meeting.

Blurring the difference between “multiple district” meeting and “town”
meeting may have caused a minor stir among those who enjoy getting stirred
up, but the substance is expected to be more contentious, and at least one
council member doubts that voters will be in the mood to approve a tax hike.

That is to say, if fees for vehicle tabs are to be raised, they will likely have to be raised without a vote, said Council President Will Maupin.

Lawmakers approved a plan to allow cities to either 1) tack $20 on the motor vehicle excise tax, or tabs, for those living in the city limits 2) or raise the tax up to $100 with the approval of voters to pay for transportation costs.

The city used to pay for maintenance on Bremerton blocks with MVET cash, about $700,000 a year. When I-695 was approved by voters, and later in the Legislature, that money stopped flowing to cities.

“I think we’re in a real tough spot,” Maupin said. “Our streets are deteriorating and we don’t have enough money to keep them up. It appears either we do it with our council authority or just forget it, because I don’t think we’re going to get approval.”

That anti-tax sentiment Maupin referred to was voiced in the reader comments of reporter Steve Gardner’s Monday story.

Paradyne64, if that is their real name, said he/she was “tired of being taxed to death” and asked why some of the property taxes he/she already pays can’t be shifted to pay for road repairs.

The commenter also raised a fact of life for politicians.

“They might be able to raise car tabs $20 without a vote, but they had better remember the ones that vote yes on this will be voted out, just like poor Mary Ann…”

One of the goals of the meetings is to push Bremerton residents into deciding what conditions of streets are acceptable, said Phil Williams, public works and utilities director.

“We have to shoot for something, then provide enough sustainable funding to
at least keep it there,” he said.

Currently, Bremerton’s streets earn an “overall condition index” rating of about 50 to 52 our of 100. That means if the streets were a school kid, they would repeat a grade. A rating of about 70 is considered the low end of “good.” The streets are broken into “segments” for rating purposes, a segment amounts to a length of road between intersections, or about a block. Bremerton has about 1,700 segments of city streets (Kitsap Way and Wheaton Way are state roads).

Of that number, about 270 segments are considered “failed,” Williams said. That means in order to repair the truly neglected, pock-marked roads, the streets must undergo more intensive repairs than other roads. Compare it to the work required when you go to the dentist every six months compared with every six years.

If the $20 hike is approved by the council, it should raise about $800,000 that by law must be dedicated to transportation. Williams said this sustainable stream of green could bring Bremerton’s roads up to an average of 70 in as little as five years.

How? Well, Williams said the worst roads would be targeted first, those 270 segments called “failed.” Right now they get a zero rating. Once they are improved, the overall rating would see a jump.

In 2007 the city paved about 2.83 lane miles of street, that’s about a mile more than the average since I-695 passed, Williams said.

To repair the roads at a slightly faster rate than they deteriorate, the city has to pave about eight miles a year.

“Since we’re not, the street system continues to decline,” he said.

The meeting is for council districts 3, 4 and 5. If you don’t know which district you live in, consult this handy-dandy map by clicking here.

Councilmen Roy Runyon (District 4) and Mike Shepherd (District 5) are expected to attend. Other council members will be traveling to Olympia for the day to meet with lawmakers. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. and is expected to last until 7 p.m. Williams will give a presentation. the meeting will be held at the Norm Dicks Government Center, 345 Sixth Street, in the first floor meeting chambers. For more information, call the council office at (360) 473-5280.

Another district meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19 for districts 7, 8 and 9, Maupin said, who pointed out that on the notice for Wednesday’s meeting, council staff inserted “town meeting” on the flier, which drew some heat. Technically it’s a “multiple district” meeting.

2 thoughts on “The Mean Streets of Bremerton

  1. What is the “transportation improvement” project that would be funded by the new tax?

    Read sections 24 and 25 of Chapter 311, Laws of 2006.
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2005-06/Pdf/Bills/Session%20Law%202006/2871-S.sl.pdf

    While the previous limit on using the funds for city streets was eliminated, it appears that the concept of using the funds for transportation improvement projects of statewide or regional significance remains in the law.

    RCW Chapter 36.73, which authorizes “transportation benefit districts” and the new taxes and fees doesn’t appear to authorize new taxes to fix potholes and sidewalks.
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=36.73

    I wonder if the presentation at the meeting will address what appear to be limitations within the law regarding the purposes for which the new funding could be used.

  2. Great coverage Andrew. I like the way you referenced comments from other postings.

    Hope to see you at the meeting tonight.

    Colleen Smidt

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