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City, county plan next year’s projects

Work continues Wednesday afternoon on the bridge on County Road C in rural Superior. This week city and county officials alike were making plans for next year’s projects. Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com

Local officials are making plans this week for next year’s infrastructure projects.

Superior’s City Council approved its 2017 capital improvement program and gave preliminary approval for the following four years in the five-year rolling plan.

And Douglas County’s Infrastructure and Transportation Committee approved the highway department’s plan for road repairs, and discussed the potential options for beefing up those efforts in the future.

Both plans depend on borrowing.

"The state is forcing us to use the tools that they won’t use," said Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak. "They won’t bond. And they won’t raise the registration fees or the gas tax so they force counties like us that are seeing growth of less than 1 percent … we’re going to be forced to do what the state won’t do."

Lisak said that means residents could see a change when their property tax bills arrive. Repayment of debt is the one item in the county’s and city’s budgets that can increase the tax levy beyond the rate of growth.

Supervisor Pat Ryan questioned whether the county was making any progress in convincing state legislators to give counties an option to go to referendum to increase sales taxes by half a percent to pay for roads. It’s an idea that has been on the Superior Days agenda for the last two years, but the Legislature has been reluctant to adopt the measure.

According to Lisak that leaves Douglas County with two options to pay for roads — borrowing or implementing a wheel tax.

The wheel tax would never fly in the three municipalities Ryan represents, she said.

The panel talked briefly about increasing the amount the county borrows to enhance its road maintenance efforts, but no decisions were made.

Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said he would like to see the county borrow more to address the roads.

The plan approved by the county transportation committee Wednesday includes pulverizing and paving a 4¼-mile stretch of County Highway P from County Highway L to County Highway B, and a 6.3-mile stretch of County Highway Y from U.S. Highway 53 to Simms Lake Road, in addition to crack and rut filling and wedging to maintain county roads. The plan also includes replacing aging equipment.

The two main sources for funding the city’s capital improvement program is debt, about 50 percent, and the pipeline terminal tax the city receives, about 33 percent, said Assistant Finance Director Chris Bronson. The balance comes from grants and other sources, he said.

"Some of the largest projects in this five-year CIP are the municipal services building — we’ve got about $5.5 million in repairs," Bronson said. In addition, there is $5 million allocated for the design and construction of the new fire department headquarters, $4.7 million for the city’s share of the costs for the reconstruction of Belknap, and $1.9 million in updates at the Superior Public Library.

The $46.65 million plan would be implemented over five years.

The plan adopted Tuesday for next year includes $1.4 million for 31st Avenue East, more than $1.5 million for general street maintenance and $228,000 for the city’s annual sidewalk program.

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