PORT TOWNSEND — As Mayor Michelle Sandoval does her day job as a Realtor, she drives on a mishmash of streets: lots paved, some sidewalk-deprived, some gravel.
So when she explains building requirements to land buyers, there’s “no rhyme or reason,” Sandoval said during Monday night’s City Council workshop.
The evening was devoted to the Comprehensive Streets Program the council will examine over the next few months. With 81 miles of streets and 33 miles of trails to maintain, city officials face a puzzle of prioritization: Which ones should they fix, and from whence will the money come?
Bottom line: Last year’s $912,000 streets budget is fiscally unsustainable, the program document states.
“We have these streets, but we don’t have enough revenue to repair them,” city engineer Dave Peterson reiterated during Monday’s meeting.
Last week, council members spent two hours listening to Charles Marohn, founder of Strong Towns, an organization devoted to helping cities prosper. Marohn spoke in an online meeting of Jefferson County’s Intergovernmental Collaborative Group (jeffcotogether.net), of which the City Council is a member, and suggested cost-saving techniques such as letting city streets revert to gravel, and even abandoning some roadways.
Those are not such bad concepts, city Public Works Director Steve King said — until that unmaintained street is the one in front of your house.
Residents may object to that back-to-gravel idea, he acknowledged.
As the City Council moves forward in its discussion of the Comprehensive Streets Program, public input will be critical, both King and Sandoval said. The mayor recalled outcry some years ago from North Beach residents who wanted their gravelly lanes paved.
The streets program also addresses the issues of ditches, parking requirements and the “streatery” policy, allowing restaurants to set up outdoor dining tents and fences.
Then there are the street lights: 630 of them which cost the city $17 apiece.
King said he’s looking for lamps to extinguish to promote darker skies while saving a little money.
In other street action earlier this month, the City Council enacted an ordinance regulating semi-permanent street paintings. People interested in creating such paintings must apply for a permit from the city Public Works Department; the artwork must not contain violent, sexually graphic or religious images, messages of hatred, support or opposition to a candidate or ballot measure, or advertisement for a good or service for sale.
Spurred by the Black Lives Matter painting on Water Street for last year’s Juneteenth march, the City Council unanimously adopted the permit ordinance during its Feb. 1 meeting.
As for the Comprehensive Streets Program, community members can take part in the discussion by emailing [email protected] and by attending City Council meetings. Agendas and live-streamed meetings can be found at CityofPT.us via the Government link.
King said he’ll present the council with a set of recommendations on the future of city streets by June or July.
Until then, “we’re accepting public comment along the way, so that’s helping inform our program,” he said.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]