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Home News Latest Clearlake council receives road condition report; officials suggest pursuing sales tax measure

Clearlake council receives road condition report; officials suggest pursuing sales tax measure

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CLEARLAKE, Calif. – Clearlake’s roads are in better shape than a few years ago, thanks to recent one-time funding sources, but the Clearlake City Council heard a report Thursday evening that put overall pavement conditions at a “poor” level.

The council also was challenged to find its own funding sources – including participating in a proposal for a countywide one-cent sales tax – to improve road conditions which, without maintenance, could continue to worsen.

Phil Dow of Ukiah-based Dow & Associates – who also is a senior planner with the Lake County/City Area Planning Council –  and his staff presented to the staff a pavement management report at the council’s Thursday night meeting.

Dow said the report on road conditions is done on a triannual basis for all of the local governments. It includes a “pavement condition index” for Lake County’s cities and its unincorporated areas.

Nephele Barrett, a senior transportation planner with Dow & Associates, explained that a pavement management program is a software tool used to make cost-effective decisions about street maintenance.

It answers five main questions: What does the city have in its street network, what condition are the streets in, what repairs are needed, how much money is required to maintain and improve streets cost effectively and the most cost-effective use of existing funding. Barrett said street conditions are assessed through on-site surveys.

Clearlake has 62.8 paved centerline miles, which includes 6.13 miles of arterials and 23.13 miles of collectors, and 33.54 miles of residential streets, Barrett said. The city also has 49.05 miles of unpaved centerline miles.

The estimated cost to replace all of Clearlake’s paved roads is $52.7 million, Barrett said.

The pavement condition index rates streets on a scale. The ratings are excellent, 70 to 100; at risk, 50 to 69; poor, 25 to 49; and failed, zero to 24.

Barrett said the average pavement condition in Clearlake is 38, which falls in the “poor” category.

That is the same rating that Clearlake’s streets had in 2005, said Barrett. In 2008, the rating improved slightly, to 39, still in the “poor” category.

Thanks to major repaving projects in recent years, arterial streets improved dramatically, and were up to 83 – in the “excellent” category –- in 2012, up from 34, or poor, in 2005 and 58, or at risk, in 2008, according to the statistics Barrett shared.

The best overall pavement conditions in Lake County are in the county’s unincorporated area, where the rating is 41, also in the “poor” category, she said.

Barrett presented different budget scenarios for the city and how those scenarios would affect street conditions.

At $200,000 a year, which she said is close to the city’s current road budget, “the pavement condition index actually stays fairly level,” although deferred maintenance continues to grow.

If the city had a road budget of $800,000 a year – with $600,000 dedicated to arterials and collector streets, and $200,000 going toward residential streets – it would bring the pavement condition index into the mid 40s and address deferred maintenance, Barrett said.

Barrett said it would cost $1.05 million a year to get to the target of a pavement condition index of 60.

She said pavement conditions are deteriorating rapidly. Asphalt prices have increased five fold since 1999, with available funding for projects not keeping pace with that increase.

“It’s clear to see that some additional funding could greatly benefit the street system,” Barrett said.

Dow explained that one-time funding in recent year from the state and federal governments – including stimulus money – was used for city paving projects. The city received about $800,000 in stimulus funding which Dow said went for repaving projects.

He urged the council to spend money to keep “the good streets good.” While he understood that some people will question that approach, “It’s going to be a whole lot more cost effective to catch it before it gets bad than to let it go while you’re worrying about something else.”

During the meeting he also explained that the criteria used by the Area Planning Council for determining where road funds were spent was based on which local streets and roads were traveled the most.

He said that the council wasn’t in control of how those state and federal monies could be spent.

Dow added, “The federal government doesn’t know you exist, the state doesn’t care,” so the city has to find a way to solve its own problems.

“You have to look at some local taxing opportunities,” he said.

The Area Planning Council is looking at pursuing a ballot measure for a half-cent sales tax, and will be conducting voter opinion polling to gauge the chances of success.

Clearlake resident Jim Scholz said the city needs to institute an educational program to explain to people that they need to pay for roads.

One of the reasons homes in Clearlake are reasonably priced, said Scholz, is that homeowners aren’t paying for goods roads. “You get what you pay for.”

Supervisor Jeff Smith explained that attempts had been made in the past to pass sales tax measures to support roads, and they’ve failed.

However, Smith agreed with Scholz that the idea needs to be sold to community members, and he supported going for a full one-cent sales tax, as he felt a half-cent measure would not bring in enough revenue to address the problem.

“I’m sold, Jeff, give me a precinct,” said Vice Mayor Jeri Spittler.

Chuck Leonard, a retired councilman, said the city missed its opportunity eight years ago to pass such a measure. He agreed if people want to have improved streets they need to pay for them.

“There’s no magic dust we sprinkle on streets,” he said.

Businessman Bob Kiel agreed with Smith’s approach. “We can’t fool around,” he said, noting that the city has been dealing with poor streets for a long time.

Mayor Joey Luiz also supported going for a full one-cent sales tax rather than a half-cent sales tax, noting that it’s as much work to go for one as the other.

“Why not shoot high?” he asked.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at .

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Comments (11)Add Comment
Dirt Roads
written by a guest, March 24, 2012
I would NEVER have bought property in Clearlake had I known that the city would NOT maintain my road. It was NEVER disclosed that I would be responsible for my city road. Who do I sue? The agent? The Broker? The State? And now my road is so bad its hard just to get to the store. And who would want to buy my property with the road in such bad shape. I would sell in a heart beat and just leave California. But I am stuck in Clearlake.
guest    1
no revenue in the city coffer
written by a guest, March 23, 2012
I seem to remember something about the airport project(if built) would have provided around $600,000.00 of income to the city through taxable sales. That money would have come in handy right now to do some road repair.

written by a guest, March 23, 2012
Hell the city can not even do maitenance to the roads already paved. At the intersection of Hiway 53 and Old 53 where a ditch was dug for the new sewer line there is a pot hole where the company dug. The hole is obout 2 inches deep all the way aceoss old 53 , the city does not even require the contractors to do a good job. Also on Olympic just before the post office heading east there are large cracks in the roadway , been there for over a year but yet the city does nothing to repair the streets. Guess the streets are in good repair in the area the city council lives. Why an extra tax when the city refuses to do simple maintenance????????
written by a guest, March 23, 2012
I live on a dirt road with ruts big enough to almost swollow my car. I pay taxes like everyone else but the "City" says we, the people on dirt roads, are responsible for paving and maintaining them....guess they view us as second class citizens....smilies/angry.gif I, along with most of the people living on dirt roads, will not vote for this new tax.
You would think that they could at least grade the damn dirt roads.
While I am on a roll, the additional taxes we are paying for sewer, I believe would come under State Proposition 218 which requires a vote by the tax payers....and we didn't vote on this. I received a letter from Jeff Smith stating something to the effect that if I didn't like it, to write a letter. Now, how many people would write a letter opposing it.....the way I am reading "Proposition 218" a mail- in ballot should have been sent to the tax payers and if that would have been done, I doubt that is would have passed. That tax is more than my property tax.
guest    1
paved roads/unpaved roads
written by a guest, March 23, 2012
My road was nicely paved when I bought my property. The cost of the property reflected the improvements already completed when I made the purchase. If folks buy a property on an unpaved road, they haven't paid for the road to be paved.
On the other hand, the road I paid for is falling apart due to lack of maintenance.
Unpaved roads should have minor maintenance(minor grading etc.), but to expect the "City" to pave them for free is not realistic. i expect that the road I paid for will be kept up at least as good as when I bought it.
love it or leave it
taxes do not work
written by a guest, March 23, 2012
I have lived in this county for fifty years and clearlake when it was the highlands to the present . I have seen many taxes and measures come and go (re-developement ha ha) we need to live in our own skin and not try to tax ourselves to prosperity , maybe its time to unincorporate the city of clearlake and return to the county lucerne, upperlake, kelseyville, middletown. nice clean paved and sidewalks. I long for clearlake highlands lets start over a new smaller city managable let the county deal with the larger unincorporated parts (dirt roads) smaller government (administration) more feet on the streets/dirt roads
written by Crabpot, March 23, 2012
Lol. L.C. can't even stop the county child advocate lawyer, from commiting financial elder asbuse, forgery, undue influence, and filing a false restraining order when all the evidence was right there..This predator/lawyer is petitioning the BAR to be reinstated. Why should I have to pay for a dysfunctional court system and county? Who is going to pay ME back? L.C. has BIGGER problems than dirt roads.
The roads and town of clearlake were madmax/dirt before you moved there. Get a truck...
guest    1
california blues
written by a guest, March 23, 2012
It would seem that California government (at every level) cannot live within its means.
The reason? Lack of tax revenue as a result of slow business activity, increased regulation, and inevitable high unemployment. Clearlake has an unemployment rate near 25%(on the books).
The most straightforward methodology to employ in order to raise tax revenue would be to spur business activity, encourage new business, and put folks back to work, thereby increasing commerce and tax revenue............or........... we can simply raise taxes.
Call me old fashioned, but it would seem to me that simply raising taxes absent any proactive move to increase employment/business activity is the "easy way out" for government officials. The roads may be improved by taking more money from everyone, but the long term structural tax revenue problems of our City will persist.

Its not about potholes - its about unpaved roads
written by lake2788, March 23, 2012
According to the figures given about fourty-four percent of the roads in the city are unpaved. Not poorly paved, not in need of paving repairs, simply totally and completely unpaved, dirt roads. They are deeply rutted and hazardous, becoming hazardous flooded quagmires when it rains. Some are no more than rock-strewn creek beds. I wonder how emergency vehicles can taverse them.

Mr. Ahlmann, above, has a point. Citizens should not be required to purchase 4WD vehicles or put up with high vehicle maintenence costs just to get to their front doors. These homeowners pay property taxes, but are denied the benefits derived from them.

Dow's plan is to keep “the good streets good” while letting the rest go to hell only perpetuates the image of Clearlake as a rural slum.

In assessing the costs of unpaved and poorly paved roads, does the City factor in the vehicle maintenence costs to City vehicles that result from providing services to these taxpayers?

How many citizens has difficulty receiving services and deliveries due to the non-existant pavement on these roads?

The above comment says it all
written by tcod, March 23, 2012
The percentage of unpaved roads and their extremely poor quality is the number one priority for Clearlake in the roads department. We need to pave the unpaved roads before we focus on repairing the paved ones.
Mr. Mayor!
written by a guest, March 23, 2012
Mr. Mayor,

Would a 1 cent tax also be used to repair un-paved roads in town?  Otherwise, I suspect it will have difficulty gaining support with those of us who pay plenty of taxes but still have to own an AWD vehicle to get to our home in town!

Christian Ahlmann

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