June 29, 2016

Mostly clear

Failure of Brunswick road levy leaves city with a bumpy road

BRUNSWICK — City officials are looking at how to maintain deteriorating roads with a $236,000 annual budget in the aftermath of Tuesday’s vote rejecting a 2.7-mill continuous levy request.

City Manager Jim Lukas said the first step will be to look at why the levy failed and gather feedback from the public.

Drivers on the south side, left, of Boston Road are on Brunswick city property and are faced with potholes and uneven pavement, whereas drivers on the north side of the street are on pavement maintained by Strongsville. Brunswick’s 2.7-mill levy request to repair and maintain roads failed Tuesday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JENNIFER PIGNOLET)

“Was it the state of the economy?” Lukas said. “Did we not do a good enough job selling it to the public?”

The levy failed 5,954 votes to 4,551, according to unofficial results. If approved, it would have cost homeowners $82.69 a year per $100,000 of assessed value and generated about $1.8 million a year to repair and maintain city roads.

Finance Director Todd Fischer has said the existing road improvement fund receives about $236,000 a year.

During a Finance Committee meeting Thursday night, Council members discussed placing another levy on the March or November ballot next year.

At-large Councilwoman Pat Hanek said there aren’t any areas to cut spending that would provide enough funding to impact roads.

“I know people don’t like taxes, I don’t like taxes, but I think we’re between a rock and a hard place,” Hanek said.

Council will have to make a decision before Dec. 7 to place an issue on the March ballot.

Earlier Thursday, Dave Coleman, Ward 3 councilman-elect and one of three new members who will take office in January, said he supported the idea of a road levy but didn’t agree with the continuous stipulation.

“We’ve got to analyze all our options and come up with the best solution,” Coleman said, adding the new Council members will have a lot of work to do to understand what will be best in the long run.

Service Director Pat McNamara said he has heard feedback from residents who also were uncomfortable voting for a continuous levy and would have preferred a year limit on the tax.

One of the problems with that, he said, is bonding out a project comes with a 20-year payback period, so a levy with an end date would drop off before the city could pay off the debt.

“We don’t want to bind the hands of any future Council,” McNamara said.

Even with Pearl Road on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s schedule for repair this spring, McNamara said, the city still will be playing catch-up with potholes after the snow melts.

“Right after the winter, it’s going to be a real mess,” McNamara said. “I would expect that it will take until midsummer before we see some real progress as far as improvement in the neighborhoods.”

He added the city’s usual patching and small repair work will go on as scheduled in the spring.

Lukas said grants will continue to be an option, but many of the larger state and federal grants require matching funds the city won’t be able to provide.

He said some residents have called his office upset the levy did not pass and want to know what the plan is now.

“We need to listen to the public,” Lukas said. “If this wasn’t what they could support, what else is out there that perhaps they can?”

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.