In the past week, we have been talking about the lack of sustainable future we have in Davis. One example is the lack of money to maintain current facilities or to purchase and upgrade new infrastructure.
While the overall unmet needs number is staggering, in excess of $655 million over 20 years, perhaps a smaller example is needed in order to demonstrate the potential future.
On Saturday, Stacey Winton of the City of Davis sent out a note via Nextdoor regarding the closure of Arroyo Pool during the 4th of July weekend – “The rec pool has a pump malfunction and will not be open through the 4th of July holiday. The facility and the lap pool with the diving board will remain open. We apologize for the terrible timing and inconvenience.”
Imagine the long and hot summers in Davis without the public pools for the children to play in.
In his 2015 call to action, Mayor Dan Wolk asked the community “to join together in an effort I’m calling ‘Renew Davis.’” At the time he said, “We’ve been resting a bit on our laurels. We need to challenge ourselves to think bigger and to renew our commitment to what makes Davis Davis and to ensure that we leave our children and grandchildren with a stronger Davis than the one we inherited.”
One of his calls was to reinvest in roads, parks and pools. At that time, Civic Center Pool was leaking thousands of gallons of water each day. Now the problem is a pump at Arroyo. City staff has priced out the cost of a new pool at Community Park at $2 million.
Dan Wolk said in January 2015 that “although the pool has since been fixed, the larger issue of the state of our community assets remains of great concern.”
It is not that pools are necessarily our biggest or most pressing need, but rather that they serve as an indicator that aging infrastructure is liable to break down at the most inopportune times. Two years ago it was a leaking pool next to City Hall, this year it is a pump shutdown over the 4th of July weekend.
A city staff report on revenue options in December laid out the dilemma faced by the city, “While there is general consensus around the concept that the City has a significant list of unmet needs, there are mixed opinions about what defines a need and whether new revenue should be pursued to address those needs.”
Staff goes on to note, “Most of the discussion has centered around infrastructure needs, specifically the city’s transportation infrastructure (streets, bike lanes, bike paths), although additional projects have been identified (pool enhancement and/or replacement, urban forest, city facilities, parks infrastructure, etc.) as long term concerns.”
The city council has done a good job at carving out about $4 million per year for roads, bike paths and sidewalks, but that still leaves the funding at least $4 million short per year. While that represents an important step, it also means that, while we are addressing some roadways, we are actually falling further behind in our upkeep schedule.
The city council has also managed to save $8 million for use of one-time funding for infrastructure projects – another good step, but the $655 million per year figure suggests the need for about $32 million a year in ongoing money to really solve these problems.
Polling of the community has shown that things like pools represent “nice to haves” as opposed to road and other infrastructure costs. But, in a real sense, it is our system of bike paths, greenbelts, parks and pools that represents a core identity for the city.
In February, the council looked into a variety of revenue options for the city to address unmet infrastructure needs. But council remained divided on what the chief goal would be. Some, like Mayor Dan Wolk and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, favored an increased parks tax.
Matt Williams noted that our current parks tax at $49 per parcel, which was passed in 2012, was “leaving us with $315 million worth of capital infrastructure maintenance that we’re going to have to do to the parks surfaces and buildings.” It was, in fact, passed knowing that we were only funding about one-quarter of our parks needs and that we would have to find the remainder of that funding at a later time.
Last week he noted there is probably another $5 million for pools not included in that $655 million.
In the February staff report, in addition to $2 million in renovations to Community Pool, there is about $100,000 in ongoing unfunded annual pool equipment needs.
A $50 per parcel per year tax would fund $1.4 million per year for 6 years and could have gone towards parks renovations and infrastructure upkeep. But again, that was not seen as the top priority by many, myself included.
Unfortunately, the lack of consensus and the late date forced the council for a second time, the first being in the spring of 2014, to postpone a decision on an infrastructure tax. The idea was that if the council was not going to go the general tax route, they didn’t need to rush to put something on the ballot.
However, the window to put something on the ballot for November is closing rapidly, and from current understanding there is no immediate plan for another revenue tax.
What does this mean? It means that likely it will be another two years before we look to a revenue measure to fund critical infrastructure needs. This is troubling. As mentioned we are still underfunding roads, parks, and other infrastructure.
We have expectations for what Davis is supposed to look like. We take for granted our services and amenities. We take for granted that we have great assets like Community Park to celebrate the 4th of July, but now these assets are threatened and someone needs to step up to save them.
—David M. Greenwald reporting