Wednesday, 08 December 2021

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

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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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