This week the finance committee will talk about sidewalks and where we should build more sidewalks in the city of Olympia and how (appropriate for this committee) we should pay for those sidewalks.
I once described myself as a sidewalk nerd, and Sarah asked me to explain. I didn't then, but hopefully, this post helps her out. I love me some sidewalks, and it makes me mad that Olympia doesn't have more of them in the places where it needs them.
Unfortunately, Olympians didn't get on the stick until we passed a sidewalks and park financing plan until 2004. Now, we get to discuss how we put all that money to work. And, apparently the city is prepared to take a more agressive stand on building those sidewalks.
Build now, pay for them later (from the staff report):
A more aggressive long term financing plan would allow the City to build more sidewalks more quickly, and use future revenues to pay back debt. Some benefits of a long term strategy are:
• We need sidewalks now and the public would benefit from them sooner if they were constructed.
• While financing means interest paid into the future, by constructing projects sooner, property, labor, and material costs are likely to be less.
• A long term financing strategy can include the integration of Local Access streets sidewalk projects into a construction and financing schedule.
Options for financing are loans or bonds:
• Inter-fund loans: Paid back within three years, with interest, and depend on available funds and other City funding needs.
• Bonds: Spent within two years. Payback periods of 10 or 20 years are possible. Depending on the payback period, the amount of revenue needed for debt service will vary, creating different gaps in the construction schedule.
A recommendation from the Finance Committee on:
• Whether to recommend a loan to construct the San Francisco Avenue project in 2008 or 2009.
• Whether or not to pursue a long term financial strategy.
A long term financing strategy can incorporate repayment of the loan for the San Francisco Avenue sidewalk project. If the Finance Committee would like to pursue a long term financing strategy using bonds or loans, staff will prepare optional approaches and implications for each.
So, if the city council decides to take this course, we could get at least three projects under our belt this summer:
• Division Street, NW, from Bowman Avenue to Walnut Road;
• Decatur Street from 9th Avenue to 14th Avenue; and
• San Francisco Avenue, NE, from Quince Street to East Bay Drive.
As for what isn't being taken care of this year, here is the pretty heft list of projects still to be done. Most of my part of town is on this list, by the way. So, while I'm glad the city is planning on a more agressive stance on knocking projects off this list, I would rather them not do it at the expense of lower ranked projects. Because, as far as I can tell, a lower rank doesn't exactly mean folks in that part of town don't need sidewalks too.