Council prepares for possible infrastructure ballot measure

Piedmont Community Pool head lifeguard Zoe Clancy and lifeguard Dennis Urbina preside over a Friday morning lap swim in March 2019. (Sam Richards)

Taking the ongoing analysis of city infrastructure needs and solutions to the next level, the City Council last week directed staff to work with a city committee to review and evaluate overall infrastructure and facilities conditions in preparation for a potential ballot measure in 2020 to help address those needs.

The direction to City Administrator Sara Lillevand came after a discussion of the needs of the city’s aquatics program, including the estimated $15 million or more needed to rebuild the physically faltering Piedmont Community Pool.

But the study of financial needs will go far beyond the pool and its related facilities, with council members envisioning an overarching analysis of long- and short-term spending needs list to make up for what in some cases has been years of deferred maintenance. Other facilities that need work to overcome varying degrees of deferred maintenance include the Recreation Department building, the Veterans Memorial Building, Coaches Field, Linda Beach Playfield, the police department building, the main fire department building and the adjoining City Hall.

“Our city infrastructure is really, really old and we have many facilities — including the pool — that are in serious need of attention.”

Councilwoman Betsy Smegal Andersen, who along with Mayor Robert McBain comprises the Aquatics Subcommittee

“They’re in need of a significant amount of investment if they’re going to be usable for the next 50 years,” Andersen said.

Paying for that work, or at least some of it, could mean Piedmont voters will be asked to support it, possibly through a construction bond measure or something similar, Mayor Robert McBain said.

The Nov. 4 action follows the council’s authorizing city staff in early October to begin preparing for a March ballot measure for renewing the city’s Municipal Services Tax (usually known simply as the “parcel tax”) for four more years.

On Nov. 4, McBain also said the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee will be asked to continue its work into the city’s financial needs, and for recommendations on how such needs can be paid for.  That committee, in an October report, recommended the city put a parcel tax extension on the March 2020 election ballot; some of that study work done for that report will translate to the wider examination of city infrastructure work. McBain said the committee will be “deputized” to take that work to another level.

The Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee, chaired by Bill Hosler, is being asked to report its findings to the council by April 7, 2020. At that point, the council can determine their next steps.

This week, McBain added that any and all funding opportunities should be explored, including public/private partnerships such as the one in which the city and community have teamed up for a major overhaul and improvements to what is now called the Corey Reich Tennis Center. 

“Given the city’s needs, however, private funding will likely not be sufficient even with the generosity of Piedmont’s residents,” McBain said.

Councilwoman Jen Cavanaugh said knowing the options will arm the council to make crucial choices next year, especially given that the 2020 election ballots will contain numerous other local, regional, and state measures.

Whatever those choices end up being, city leaders know the work, and finding ways to pay for it, will be daunting.

“It’s going to be a big lift,” McBain said on Nov. 4. “But then again, we knew it would be.”

Reach Sam Richards at| Photo by Sam Richards

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