As Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a-changin.” Our Pendleton mayor and city councilors have concluded that the budget road city hall has taken us down has led us to more potholes, leaky roofs, rotten plumbing, and myriad other infrastructure problems. A lot of thought and discussion is going on toward implementation of a sustainable budget, a road map to rebuild our crumbling city.
In the past, a common practice for funding new programs has been dependent on grants with routine maintenance provided by volunteers. This must be addressed. With no long-range plan in place for future maintenance once those grants expire and volunteer burnout, funding inevitably falls on the general fund. Deferring maintenance on city infrastructure while simultaneously funding new projects became the preferred solution simply because it was the easy way out. The replacement of the Eighth Street Bridge is just one example. Not only did this project require the city to assume ownership of several miles of substandard county roads, and city hall not complying with proper procedures for the disposition of historic property, ODOT was forced to delay the project. This resulted in cost increases, and added to our backlog of street repairs.
It’s time to cancel the relocation portion of this project and use those funds to offset the cost overruns. Such a gesture makes perfect sense and would show the public the mayor and city council are serious about getting the budget under control.
The city streets are the main issue. Public works continues a pattern of paying consultants to tell us that our streets are crumbling. This, and continued use of $190,000 in gas tax revenue to pay electric bills, wastes already scare funds that should be buying asphalt. One look at the condition of our streets and you can see how well that’s worked out. Their remedy? Classify the streets as a utility, tack another fee on our utility bill, and get more revenue to feed their insatiable appetite without any spending cuts.
Oregon law bars the city council from dictating a budget, they can only advise. Unless the council can convince the city manager they are serious, it looks like all that talk about a sustainable budget is just talk. Only time will tell.