For years, the El Dorado City Commission has been talking about Towanda Avenue.
That issue recently resurfaced for the commission and it was brought back to them during their meeting Monday evening.
The proposal brought to the commission was to pave Towanda from Fredrick to Edgemoor, which is the portion that falls within the city limits. The cost is $574,000 for the project. Going west of the bridge on Towanda, the street gets into township and county ownership. The entire project to Haverhill would cost approximately $1.3 million.
Looking at the entire stretch of road, City Manager Herb Llewellyn said the township had agreed to put some funding toward it, and he believed the county would also put some money into it.
"Through discussions with some of the commission you asked me to get it back in front of you so you could discuss it," Llewellyn said. "We are starting with the portion within the city to build it to city standards."
Scott Rickard, assistant city engineer, said there were three directions the commission could take from here: to initiate the project, then citizens could protest out; see property owners carry the petition themselves; or to take no action.
"The resolution and all the paper work and bond authorization is with our bond counsel currently," Rickard said. "We would be prepared at the next meeting to authorize that project."
Mayor Mike Fagg asked about seeing a breakdown of the Boyer and Sixth project.
"I want to get this moving," said Commissioner David Chapin.
Commissioner Bill Young asked how often they paved streets with the city initiating the project and he was told it does happen.
Commissioner Nick Badwey added that doing a little was better than nothing.
How this project was to be paid for created a lot of debate among the commissioners.
Fagg said he would like to consider taking the excess sales tax and putting it into this program.
"We've never done that before but it's time for us to be proactive and get this done," he said. "This is a capital improvement that we are doing. This is a major street in town and we have to get a different attitude about completing major streets. That's my opinion."
Looking at the excess sales tax funds which can go to projects in town, it is in excess of $200,000, but they typically leave a mill in the fund in case they don't collect the same amount in the current year. With that, it leaves $120,000 to be distributed.
Fagg wanted the sales tax committee to consider the option to put the money toward Towanda.
Page 2 of 4 - Llewellyn said the committee did discuss it at their last meeting and there was no support other than one woman who was concerned about people walking on Towanda.
Fagg asked Llewellyn to run the issue by the committee again when they met on Tuesday.
"I think they had a pretty decent conversation about it from what I heard back," Locke said. "Everyone else had different ideas and supported different projects."
Tabitha Sharp, city clerk, added the main consensus was there wasn't enough money in excess sales tax to make a difference in this project.
"If we had $200,000, don't tell me we wouldn't make a dent on it," Fagg said. "It would be something to show some good faith on our part to get this done. There are a lot of houses affected by very little street."
"Are you wanting to change the street policy?" Chapin asked Fagg.
Fagg said he was not.
Llewellyn then said he would throw out a different idea that he didn't think they would like. That was that a vast majority of the excess sales tax going to property tax reduction. But by using that they would have to raise property taxes for a year.
Fagg also was concerned they had a unique opportunity for the township to match the city on the work west of the bridge and he wanted to know why they wouldn't do that by using sales tax to match some of that.
"In other words, you want to change the city policy on streets," Chapin said to Fagg. "What I'm trying to do is, after all the years on here, I've asked that question more than once."
He said it goes back to if they change the policy are they going to go back and refund a portion of the costs of Post, Country Club, Boyer and other streets?
"Let's take everything in the city and get this piece of the pie taken care of," Chapin said. "This is the city and it should follow under our policies. I think you would agree policies are written for a reason. Once we find out what the citizens want to do, if the protest out, it is a whole different can of worms."
Fagg also wanted to have a meeting with anyone in the affected area to talk about the project.
Chapin asked if they didn't have open meetings for this, to which Llewellyn said they did.
"This is excess sales tax," Fagg clarified, "and we can do anything with that as long as it is capital improvement.
At this point, Young asked if they were still talking about the initial piece or now talking about the whole project.
Page 3 of 4 - Badwey voiced he was in favor of doing the street from the bridge east, the part in the city limits.
"Do you understand the township would match us and we could do it with half the funds?" Fagg asked.
"That's still out there," Chapin said.
"If the people who live there petition out, then you can talk intelligently about the entire thing being overlayed," Lewellyn said. "You've always had the option just to pay for the whole thing yourselves. Nothing prevents that even though half is in the county."
"Doing something is better than doing nothing," Fagg said, then returning to the sales tax committee. "My picture was to approach excess sales tax committee and say would you be OK to use the money."
"The conversation has been had at the sales tax committee level and that's not a project they want," Young said.
Fagg asked how many members of that committee were present because he knew of two who supported the Towanda project.
"One of your appointees wants a playground," Llewellyn said.
"Towanda Street was not an important enough decision," Young added.
Fagg said he wondered if they knew it was an option.
"Yes," Llewellyn said. "I described the project to them. I talked to them all about it. I am happy to say something again tomorrow and reiterate, and they can do whatever they want and you can do whatever you want. I don't think a commission ever went against that advisory board's recommendation. I'll tell them again tomorrow."
Chapin again pointed out they were following city policy, which states every property owner pays for two streets.
Fagg again said he would like to have a public meeting to make sure property owners were aware of what was being proposed.
Llewellyn said state law says they send all affected residents information and hold public hearings.
"People don't wake up in the morning and get a new assessment on their property taxes," Llewellyn said.
Fagg went on to talk about the curbs north of town on the west side of the street on Main Street. He said the city helped pay for about $400,000 of that and asked if that was following street policy.
Rickard said any of the state highways have never been assessed to property owners.
Young asked who paid for curb and gutter on Post, McCollum and others and said it was the residents.
"I'm saying on Main we paid a nice sum in that," Fagg said.
"I'm trying to figure out how that ties to street policy," Young said.
Page 4 of 4 - Fagg pointed out the project on Main he was talking about was when Stan Stewart was city manager.
Fagg then asked how the Industrial Park fits into the policy.
Llewellyn said it is put into the price of the property.
"We're going to bring you work based on your policy," Lewellyn said.
Fagg then asked again if excess sales tax is an option and Llewellyn said it was.
"There is no doubt in my mind if we will go off policy if we go west of the bridge," Chapin said. "My point here is this street is no different than the section of Towanda for Skelly. I don't see why it's unfair for this section to be treated the same."
"If people I know were in favor of that, I would make sure they show up at the meeting," Locke pointed out. "The report I got back from the person I appointed, you (Llewellyn) presented everything and they did not want to do that."
City staff will bring back specific costs to property owners at the next meeting.