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Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Apr 30

April 29, 2022

Posted on April 30, 2022 at 1:09 PM by Niyah Ross

Council work sessions this week focused on the needs met and addressed by voter approved bonds and levies supporting street maintenance and repair, and parks and recreational facilities.  

In the first investment, voters approved the third five-year bond in 2017 to address the on-going backlog in road repair and maintenance.  As you may recall, the bond includes a specific list of streets that are prioritized for some level of improvement – either needing reconstruction or repaving.  The bond adds approximately $10 million annually for this repair, augmenting the $3 million available through gas tax revenue.  Last week, Council received a report on the actual work completed.   This week’s work session was to consider renewal of the bond for another five years.  Without renewal, the progress made in the past three bonds would be undone. The cost of the backlog to address road maintenance needs would increase from the 2021 amount of $87.6 million to a $296 million in the next 10 years.

On the positive side, due to increases in property values, the City can retain the same tax rate of $0.63 per $1000 to raise an additional $10 million over the $51.2 million of the 2017 bond to a projected $61.2 million if the bond is renewed beginning in 2023.  

Council has several considerations before them: the first is whether to renew; second, at what rate to renew – fully funding the backlog need would require a higher rate of $.77 per $1000; and third, how to allocate the additional funds.  In the 2017 bond, 10% of funding was directed toward active transportation projects to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.   This could be increased to 20 or 30 percent of the total.  Alternatively, Councilors are interested in addressing lighting needs, sidewalk repair and signage.  This will come back to Council in June when we will also learn the results of the public survey.  If Council decides to renew the bond, it needs to go to the voters in November this year to avoid a lapse in funding.

On Wednesday, Council received an update on the progress on projects funded by both the bond and the levy to support parks and recreational facilities.  Passed by the voters in 2018, both measures have enabled the city to improve and expand existing facilities, invest in new parks, and increase maintenance and staffing.  The list of capital improvements includes the Echo Hollow Pool, Campbell Community Center, Sheldon Pool, Berkely Park renovations, Downtown Riverfront Park, and lighting at Alton Baker, the South Bank Trail and Monroe Park.  Coming up this year is work on Striker Field, Churchill Tennis Courts, restroom rehabilitation at Monroe Park, and “re-wilding” of Amazon Creek between 19th-24th Avenues.

The city conducted a survey to gauge public reaction to improvements and learned that over a third of respondents felt safer in 2021 than in 2020 due to the improvements in lighting and maintenance, as well as increased park staff.  A total of five park ambassadors and two full time Eugene Police park resource officers were funded by the levy to offer a welcoming presence and increase enforcement of park rules.

At Monday night’s meeting, Councilors took some time to honor Renee Grube who is retiring today after 35 years at the City and 15 years overseeing the Library, Recreation and Cultural Services Department (LRCS).  Renee’s leadership is testament to the impact that one person can have in building a strong, inspired, and creative team.  

For most of us, the programming and facilities created and managed by LRCS is how we experience life in Eugene – knowing we can walk in park, take a swim, go to a concert, borrow a book or a computer from the library.  Second only to roads – these are essential services that we all experience every day. It is work to be proud of and thankful for.

Enjoy the emerging spring.