Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sun Valley needs to invest in its future


Over the last several years, the Sun Valley City Council and mayor have collaborated on developing a long-term capital plan for the city. We solicited input from residents and businesses, taking testimony and listening to new ideas.

In crafting the broader 20-year capital plan for the city, we identified a comprehensive list of needs for the future of our town, its infrastructure and the amenities important to residents and visitors alike. The needs identified totaled more than $22 million.

As we worked to complete the plan, the economy continued in a downward slide, and we faced the same tough choices all of us faced in our daily lives: which things are most important to invest in now?

We worked together to narrow the list to those things that are absolutely critical to maintain the quality of services important to our community. The resulting five-year capital improvement program is focused on rebuilding aging roads, restoring final sections of damaged bike paths and replacing critical public safety equipment. We unanimously voted to put the $14.1 million bond that would pay for this five-year plan on the ballot.

The city's Street Department does regular repair work on all of our roads. Even though our streets and paths are maintained annually, they deteriorate over time. Many of our roads and sections of our paths are reaching the end of their life span. We need to rebuild these roads before they deteriorate further and the repair costs increase substantially.

We also want to ensure that the city meets proper public safety standards. The Fire Department's 24-year-old ladder truck will no longer meet mandatory safety requirements soon, and the radios we now use for emergency communications will become obsolete next year when FCC mandates require us to use different radio technologies.

These assets, as well as the road and path repairs, are beyond the scope of what the city's annual operating budget can accommodate.

Bond rates are at historic lows, as are construction costs. Passage of this bond would allow our community to take advantage of both, allowing us to improve infrastructure without having to pay more for the same work in future years. Additionally, we anticipate minimizing interest expense by issuing in 2012 only the amount needed to pay for the first three years of work. Then we will draw down the remainder of the funds in 2014 or 2015.

If the bond passes, each property owner will pay annually about 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For an owner with $1 million in assessed value, that would be about $500 per year. Because various debts, including the city's only outstanding bond, are being retired this year, your overall property taxes would stay about the same.

Like most publicly elected bodies, we don't always agree. But on this we are unanimous. We put the issue before you, the voters, because we believe taking care of our infrastructure now is critical to the future of the city.

We are unified by the idea of investing in essentials for the long term. Sun Valley is a world-class community, and we have an obligation to keep it that way.

Wayne Willich is mayor of Sun Valley. Dewayne Briscoe, Nils Ribi, Joan Lamb and Bob Youngman are City Council members.

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