So on Tuesday night, the Davis City Council adjourned their meeting at 7:10 pm. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice getting home to my family while my kids were still awake, but that just seems like a waste of staff time.
It is true that council made the decision to move the healthy beverages for children item to consent and put off the presentation by First 5 Yolo until there was an actual proposal on the table. The only other item was a ten minute item on a public hearing about the Alhambra at Mace Ranch Apartments.
So while the meeting was a bit shorter than anticipated, as agendized they were predicting a 7:30 ending.
I understand that we have had an interim city manager from April until the end of October. I understand that Dirk Brazil has been on the job in full capacity only since November and some of that time was holiday season, but Steve Pinkerton’s first council meeting went until 3 am – granted, it was a disastrous meeting that ended in the water rate implementation that led to the referendum drive and eventually was repealed three months later – but that was a council that had a strong workload throughout.
While I always get blow-back from council when I bring up this point, I’m not exactly sure what this council has done since it was seated back in July.
I am one of the few people that actually thinks the mayor’s healthy children’s initiative is a worthwhile venture. I believe we have a community based crisis in nutrition and care for low income children; the county is certainly not doing near enough and I am equally critical of the schools.
That being said, I am becoming very concerned at the lack of action on a number of items.
First, I was told that as of now there is no plan to agendize a discussion on the parcel tax. It is now December 4, which means we probably have one or two meetings left this calendar year and we are into January. We could, I suppose, get a special election on the ballot for the spring – but clearly that is a longshot now.
Mayor Dan Wolk and Councilmember Brett Lee are on the subcommittee for taxes and the council has reportedly not heard back from them yet. It was approximately a year ago that this subcommittee convened a focus group which recommended both a sales tax and parcel tax.
It is true that the sales tax passed last June and the city ended up in the black by $850,000 from the past fiscal year, but as we have noted a number of times, the infrastructure needs – deferred maintenance on roads – have not been included in budget projections.
Nor has the city received the study of the replacement costs for city buildings and other infrastructure to get a sense of the price tag there.
As we have reported, the city has set enough money aside to make about $4 million per year in annual funding for roads available through the general fund and a special roadway funding.
Back in February of 2013, the Davis City Council received a report that showed that the city’s street and bike paths were in worse condition than previously believed and the level of deferred maintenance was far higher than previously known. The PCI for the city streets was 62 with bike paths at 59.
Pavement conditions decline at a rate of about two to three points per year, so the city now believes that roads are at around a 60 while bike paths are at 56.
The report recommended that the city consider increasing pavement expenditures from $1 million per year to a level that would maintain the current deferred maintenance.
The cost of that would be about $140 million over 20 years or $7 million per year. In follow up meetings, council would discuss scenarios that would allow the city to attempt to meet the funding options. They quickly centered around a scenario that would pay about $25 million up front ($15 million in year one and $10 million in year two, and obtained through a parcel tax) and then $2 to $4 million per year after that for pavement maintenance.
City Manager Steve Pinkerton last year suggested that low-interest loans or increased revenue would be the best approach to create the large, up front funds.
As a September 8, 2014, staff report from Michael Mitchell, the Principal Civil Engineer, noted, “City Staff have allocated $4.7 million to a paving program (Capital Improvement Project 8250). While this amount is less than the $15 million mentioned above for the first year, it is better than the $1 million previously allocated. The $4.7 million will go toward a crack sealing and base repair project this fall and an overlay project next construction season on most or all of the streets that will undergo this season’s crack sealing and base repair. The overlay project next year will include some bike paths and concrete curb, gutter and sidewalk repair as well as ADA compatible ramps.”
Based on this information, the city has the ongoing funding in place. Council deserves a lot of credit for prioritizing funding within the existing general fund budget. What the city lacks however, is the $25 million up front to be able to pour into roads.
There apparently is some question about whether the road costs are really as high as they should be. This is again based on the decreasing costs for oil which has led to potential declines in the 8% average inflation rate on asphalt – but missing from that discussion, as we noted last year, was the dramatic increase in costs to repair roads when the road simply needs overlay versus reconstruction – and that is where much of the roadway costs are going to come from, if we delay.
But again, the parcel tax seems to not be a matter of urgency at this time.
While I think there is prudence to have some patience in this regards. Dirk Brazil has barely been on the job for a month and he is still getting a lay of the land.
Another matter of some import, however, is how the city will manage its fiscal office. Under City Manager Bill Emlen, who was a land use planner, the city’s finance department was run by Paul Navazio.
When Steve Pinkerton was hired, Paul Navazio shortly thereafter ended up leaving to take the City Manager position in Woodland. Mr. Pinkerton was a very hands-on fiscal manager and he brought on Yvonne Quiring to head up the finance department.
Now, with Mr. Pinkerton gone, there is speculation that Ms. Quiring will retire, and Mr. Brazil does not have a background in finance. That leaves us in a rather precarious position on a matter of such import. So we will monitor that situation over the coming months.
—David M. Greenwald reporting