City draws up plans for projects under new revenue system

Published 8:36 pm Friday, August 12, 2016

The average vehicle in the City of Bainbridge’s fleet is 17 years old with more than 250,000 miles. The Boat Basin remains an unfinished project and the city’s reserve finances are well below where they should be. This all may be changing in the near future, though.

City Manager Chris Hobby has proposed a change to the revenue system for the city where it relies less on unpredictable revenue from sales and property taxes and instead relies upon revenue from service-based fees. By raising the base fee and per 1,000 gallon fee for water and sewer in Bainbridge to a level more in line with other cities in the region, while still remaining the cheapest, the city will be able to afford the projects they have been putting off in recent years.

“The capital that we’ve laid out is pretty reflective of what was talked about [at the council retreat],” Hobby said. [We’re] taking those idea from the council retreat and now we’re putting real number against them and giving a plan.”

The first project on the docket is entering into a fleet management plan with Enterprise that will allow the city to replace every vehicle in its fleet over the next five years, while actually saving money.

“At the current pace at which we’re replacing vehicles it’ll be 40 years before we transition this entire fleet out,” Hobby said. “That’s not feasible.”

Under the program with Enterprise, the city will lease vehicles for a five year period. In 2017 the plan is to replace 16 of the city’s current vehicles with new ones leased from Enterprise. Over the next four-years leased vehicles will replace the entire fleet. Then in 2022, upgraded models will replace the original 16 vehicles that were leased. In this format, every five years the entire fleet will turn over.

“What it shows us is that over the 10-year period it would actually save us money because the cost to maintain those vehicle would go down so dramatically,” Hobby said. “We’re paying more to maintain old vehicles than what we could replace them for. The lease idea is intriguing because it doesn’t make us come up with all the money at one time to replace the fleet.”

Over the 10-year period of the initial contract, the city expects to save almost $200,000 in maintenance and fuel costs.

“We’re trying to manage the fleet better,” Hobby said. “We’re trying to lower our maintenance costs and we’re trying to save money.”

Another proposed project for 2017 is major improvements to the Boat Basin. The plans call for the completion of the nature trail, improvements to the Boat Basin playground and planning for a splash pad to be constructed in 2018.

“The first year we want to finish out the river walk,” Hobby said. “We want to get the bridge in place. That’s the biggest piece that’s left out there. Once we have that done that will give us a complete 6.2 mile trail, which is a 10 K, and that’s what we’ve been aiming for.”

The city also plans to begin work on turning Cheney Griffin Park from a large asphalt area into green space. The five-year plans calls for a mountain bike trail, which could be completed in 2017, an expansion of the campground and the construction of a second covered shelter.

The third major project that the reconfigured revenue system will help fund is the city’s required reserves. Currently the city has $800,000 in reserves, but to be considered healthy they are required to have at least three months operating cost in reserves, or roughly $3 million

“The reason that you fund reserves is because unexpected things do occur and if you don’t have reserves on hand then you have no way to pay when unexpected things do happen,” Hobby said. “We saw that this year with the flood at the treatment plant.”

This year’s budget calls for $600,000 to be added to reserves with the plan to reach $3 million.

The proposal is to fund these projects and others by raising service based fees, which spreads the responsibility to all residents and not just property owners.

“The council is going to have to decide are all these projects worth doing,” Hobby said. “If you funded it all, it either has to come from property tax or it has to come from user fees. That’s going to be the decision they have to make.”

For a detailed breakdown on the proposed changes to the water and sewage rates see next Wednesday’s issue of The Post-Searchlight.

 

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