St. Helena city officials can’t campaign in favor of the infrastructure bond measure on the June 7 ballot, but they’re making no secret of how badly the city needs the money.
Each project that would be funded by the bond “is very important and very essential to the viability and security of our infrastructure,” Interim City Manager Jim McCann said Thursday during the first of three informational workshops about Measure H.
"We clearly need more (money) and the general obligation bond would help with that," McCann said.
Measure H is a $19 million bond measure on the June 7 ballot that would fund improvements to water, wastewater and storm drain systems that date back as far as the 1940s. City officials say any of those systems are at ever-increasing risk of catastrophic failure that could cut off water supplies to customers or firefighters.
Those facilities are “well beyond their service life,” McCann said. He noted that multiple council-appointed task forces have concluded there is “great demand and great need for improvement and renovation.”
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“All of those efforts require funding,” McCann said, adding that the total price tag has been estimated at $150 million over the next 30 years.
Measure H would fund the most urgent projects with general obligation (GO) bonds repaid by an ad valorem property tax averaging $14.82 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. It requires two-thirds voter approval to pass.
The bond proceeds would be used to replace 20,700 feet of drinking water pipes, replace 4,900 feet of water pipelines to create greater capacity for fire protection, update the aging sewer system to prevent overflows, and replace old storm drains to keep pollutants out of local waterways.
“Several times per month we have substantial leaks and/or breaks in our water mains,” said Finance Director April Mitts. “This would increase the amount of water available to customers … and help us maintain the pressure flow to help our fire suppression services.”
The bond would enable the city to repair its infrastructure much more quickly than if it had to rely solely on utility rates, McCann said.
“If we are unable to secure the additional funding from the GO bond that doesn’t mean we’re not going to attack these (projects),” he said. “We will. It will just be at a slower pace as funding is available to address all of the many competing needs that the water and wastewater utility rates have before them.”
The storm drain projects that would be funded by Measure H are not funded by utility rates. The failure of Measure H might force the city to tap the General Fund for those projects.
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You can reach Jesse Duarte at (707) 967-6803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.