Can Poulsbo pay for new Front Street?

POULSBO — It’s been on the city’s “to do list” for far too long, but when Poulsbo finally decided to get improvements on Front Street rolling it quickly ran into another problem — money.

Despite having a price tag of some $2.2 million, the city hopes to complete the long-awaited project next fall. How to best fund the enhancement work fell in the lap of the finance committee Wednesday, which gave members of the Poulsbo Engineering Department the input needed to proceed with their plans.

The improvement project, which will stretch from south Jensen Way to Bond Road, is slated to enter its construction phase by next October and wrap up by November 2002. The pavement overlay will include minor widening work, left turn lanes at intersections, sidewalks, new curbs and gutters, improved drainage and a 12-inch water main.

Almost immediately, the costs came under fire.

“We need the curbs and gutters for the stormwater, but do we need the sidewalk (on the west side of) Front Street?” city councilman Dale Rudolph asked, noting that virtually everyone who walks the route uses the opposite side of the street. “It sounds like a flat waste of money.”

Addressing Rudolph’s concerns, Project engineer Andrezej Kasiniak said the plan could be changed in the future and explained that the new west side walkway could be incorporated into the larger plan for the Liberty Bay Trail.

One thing that won’t be altered is planned drainage enhancements.

“We’ll be treating 100 percent of the runoff from the road,” Kasiniak said, explaining that the project would also enhance fireflow along the highly-traveled road.

“The budget and the expenditures are pretty close at this point,” he added. Financial estimates revealed Wednesday put the improvement project budget at $2,197,000. Expenditures were just slightly higher at $2,197,067.

“We can afford the debt service payment,” Kasiniak said. The city can utilize a Public Works Trust Fund Loan to pay off the cost over the next 20 years, but committing to $100,000 a year for two decades didn’t set very well with the finance committee, which pointed out the long-term pay off could impact other much-needed road enhancements.

Caldart Street is just one of these projects.

Caldart, which runs by North Kitsap High School, has been on the city’s back burner for several years due to one fact — lack of funding.

The improvement would add pavement overlay, sidewalks, curbs, gutters and drainage to the route that, during the school year, gets as much use as any city street.

But at $850,000, Poulsbo has had a difficult time digging up the dollars to absorb the cost.

This too, might be handled by the Public Works Trust Fund Loan.

Design expenses of some $150,000 would be incurred next year, leaving roughly $700,000 in construction costs for 2003. The city is expecting $75,000 in assistance from the North Kitsap School District and another $130,000 in traffic mitigation. The state is kicking in $150,000 and city street and storm reserves will add $250,000 and $40,000 to the collective pot.

But even with all these revenue sources, Poulsbo still faces a $205,000 shortfall.

That’s where the loan comes in. According to Kasiniak, the 20-year trust fund would cost the city about $13,000 a year to pay back.

Councilwoman Jackie Aitchison said she felt “fancy dancy” environmental improvements to the Caldart Street project could bring in assisting money from the state Centennial Clean Water Fund.

Considering the two proposals, councilman Dale Rudolph remarked, “I feel a lot better with a little number like $13,000.”

While the finance committee shared its skepticism of the enormous costs facing the city, both members present agreed that the workload in question was a necessary burden for Poulsbo to carry.

“The only question on Front Street was always when? It’s not like we can’t do it,” Rudolph remarked.

“I know we have the money but I get a little nervous about all the money we’re spending on these huge projects,” Aitchison said.

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