By: Diane Benjamin
I probably have at least 100 stories since 2012 on road conditions. Tari Renner ran for office promising to fix them – twice. https://blnnews.com/2018/01/24/its-the-roads-stupid/
In 2012 the City passed an Action Plan that included “smooth rides on quality well-maintained street”. https://blnnews.com/2015/02/26/if-you-like-your-roads-you-can-keep-your-roads/
In late 2013 or early 2014 the City borrowed $10,000,000 for roads. That barely made a dent.
The bottom line is roads have not been a priority since the early 1990’s, Quality of Life Amenities like the Coliseum, BCPA, and downtown were the priorities.
Former Alderman Rob Fazzini reported during a meeting ZERO was spent on roads in 2000. Keep in mind roads were funded from the General Fund before a $.04 a gallon gas tax was passed in 2014, it doubled to $.08 a gallon in 2019. Mayor Mboka is the only Council person left who voted for the original gas tax, he voted against the second increase in 2019. Jamie Mathy was the last remaining Council member who voted yes on the second tax increase, he wasn’t on the Council for the first vote.
These NEW taxes meant the City of Bloomington had to spend ZERO from the General Fund on roads, your other taxes didn’t go down. The money formally spent on roads was redirected to other projects.
On May 11, 2015 the former Public Works Director, Jim Karch, made a presentation to the Council about roads. https://blnnews.com/2015/05/12/13-7m-9-5m-what-tari-didnt-want-to-hear/
Keep in mind – this was 7 years ago and before slight and MASSIVE inflation.
Karch stated it would take $80,000,000 to catch up.
It would take $13.7 million per year to achieve a “good” rating on all roads.
It would take $9.5 million per year to achieve a “fair” rating on all roads.
In 2015 the City of Bloomington budgeted $2.4 million for roads.
Instead of posting more promises and failures, I’m going to jump to last Monday. City Manager Tim Gleason expects the Council to decide by next Monday how the rest of the American Rescue Plan funds should be spent. So far only $4,000,000 of the $13.4 million as been allocated to roads. $6.4 million is left to allocate, most of the rest is going to accelerating sewer fixes. See the slide at 17:00.
Jump to the slide at 22:00. $2.2 million for each might be allocated to Economic Development and something called Socioeconomic Opportunities/Investment. That last one wasn’t explained. Jeff Crabill wanted to hand money to people behind on their rent and utilities even though, as Donna Boelen pointed out, the State already has programs for those. Sheila Montney was great at 47:05. She stated the City is currently touching less than 2% of the streets a year which means decades of spending to get to Julie Emig’s “good enough” streets.
All citizens should watch the discussion on spending this money. Roads and sewers are a disaster. Citizens need to know who takes both seriously and who doesn’t.
The roads will never be fixed unless the majority of the Council quits spending millions on other projects like a Water Park when only a pool was needed. Next Monday’s meeting might be interesting.