Some Douglas Officials Balk At Blue Star Corridor Costs
Towards the end of a special workshop on Monday to discuss the Blue Star Highway Improvement Plan, Douglas Mayor Jim Wiley summarized the meeting when he said: “We are all in agreement that we want to do this, but we have to figure out how to pay for it.”
Some Douglas Council members said they were not in favor of raising taxes, but yet said they would support the construction of a sidewalk thereby making their town a walkable and safe community.
Last month, Douglas Community Development Director Ryan Kilpatrick presented the council with a preliminary figure of $4.5 million.
Those dollars would be needed to remake the town’s main road that included two roundabouts, where Blue Star intersects with Center and Wiley streets.
“I am not against the roundabouts, I just didn’t like the cost,” said Douglas Council Member Lisa Greenwood on Monday.
Indeed, Kilpatrick’s proposal at the workshop provided a scaled -down version that did not include any roundabouts, which he said would cost $200,000 to $250,000 each. However, the modified proposal, with an estimated cost of more than $345,000, does include tree planting on both sides all along the corridor, street medians, improved crosswalks and a sidewalk for bicyclists and pedestrians in both the corridor and Center Street.
“If you really don’t want to increase taxes, you would need to dip into the fund balance. A bond proposal would mean a ½-mill increase of taxes,” Douglas City Treasurer Bob Drexler told the council.
He added that a property owner with a $100,000 taxable value would contribute $50 per year if the 1/2-mill increase was passed to pay for the project.
Noting that the Douglas Advisory Committee, city staff and leaders had worked on the improvement plans for more than two years, Douglas Council Member Diane Bailey said, “I am a little disheartened. I hear the council saying, ‘I don’t want to go any further with this because it costs money.’”
To which Greenwood said, “I don’t want to drop it, but I don’t want to increase taxes.”
Douglas Council Member Greg Harvath concurred, saying that the city should find a “creative way to pay for it.”
Greenwood said she could go without the median construction, at an estimated cost of about $174,000, but saw value in the pathway (roughly estimated to cost $175,000 to $200,000) and the tree planting (estimated at $11,625).
So did Douglas Council Member Bill Japinga when he said, “The sidewalks are worthwhile doing. We live in a place we can’t walk; $50 per year (for a sidewalk), I have no problem with that.”
The council resolved to continue discussing the issue in the future.