Street improvement issue could return to Wyoming ballot

Council sets July 15 public hearing on the topic

Alice Pickering
Wyoming Reporter

It appears Wyoming residents will have another opportunity to vote on how to pay for street repairs in the city. Pending a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. July 15, a referendum on the subject could occur for the second year in a row.

Two resolutions will be proposed for adoption at the public hearing. The first, which would require a vote of at least four of the five City Council members, will be to adopt and approve a citywide improvement project. The second resolution will be to place a question on this fall’s general election ballot asking taxpayers if they support paying for street improvements without assessments.

A yes vote on the referendum would result in bonds being sold. A no vote would result in street improvements being completed with more than 20 percent of the costs being assessed to affected property owners.

A vote of 3-1 during a council work session June 17 set up the public hearing. Councilwoman Linda Yeager cast the dissenting vote.

Councilman Joe Zerwas had requested the work session in order to discuss the street improvement issue. He called for “putting the referendum back on the ballot in November,” referencing last August’s defeat of a proposal to sell bonds to finance street repair projects.

“I don’t want to be double-dipping into residents’ pockets,” Zerwas said, referencing property taxes and assessments. The defeat of the bond-sale vote did not green-light assessments.

Zerwas believes there will be a larger turnout at the polls this time because it is a mid-term general election. If the result is the same, Zerwas said, then it will be time to try another plan.

Mayor Eric Peterson also prefers to fix roads without assessment.

Although city officials were trying to take advantage of lower interest rates, Roger Elmore believes last year’s referendum was poorly timed at the end of the summer vacation, with many residents out of town.

Yeager is against the idea and said residents already made their stance clear.

An alternative is to pay cash for street projects, spreading out projects over several years as money becomes available. Another is for the city to assess 20 percent of the cost to residents and bond for the city’s 80 percent share.

City Administrator Craig Mattson explained that the city proceeds with an overall plan for street repair, not one road at a time. He said that $800,000 in the city’s budget is designated for making bond payments to finance street projects. Depending on the amount of the bonds sold, payments are estimated to be about $300,000 annually.

Mattson explained that the city can borrow sensibly and in manageable increments, while keeping any bond payments relatively flat.

Wyoming residents will be notified of the July 15 hearing by mail and published notice.