Council considers bond to pay for sidewalk program

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published July 12, 2017


CLAWSON — Changes could be coming to Clawson’s sidewalk repair and replacement program if the City Council approves a $2.125 million bond initiative this summer for November’s ballot.

City Manager Mark Pollock said bond approval would change the financing of its sidewalk program from collecting a $25 annual fee from all residents to issuing unlimited tax general obligation bonds.

Pollock said the average taxable value in Clawson is about $54,000, so if the bond is approved by all stakeholders moving forward, it would cost the average homeowner $33 a year. Pollock said the money would only go toward sidewalks and would be collected from residential and commercial property owners.

Pollock said the overall debt collection in the city would stay the same and would eventually decrease when factoring in the new sidewalk bonds, because the city’s overall debt millage is expected to drop annually. The city manager said the North Arm Drain debt and the library bond would fall off in 2021, further reducing the overall debt collection.

“With that in mind, our bond advisers have prepared a repayment schedule to show that our overall debt levy for bond payments will actually continue to decrease over the repayment term of these UTGO bonds,” he said.

Pollock said the payments for the sidewalk bond issue average 0.61 mills over an 11-year repayment schedule.

“The debt millage would continue to drop each year until the estimated millage in the final year of this bond repayment is 4.13 mills,” Pollock said. The current debt millage is 7.65.

Pollock said the bond proposal would have two separate issues: one for $1.275 million in 2018, and another for $850,000 in 2021.

The existing sidewalk program was approved by City Council in 2007 for six years, and approved again in 2013 for an additional six years. Residential property owners paid $25 per year through the 2016 summer tax bill, and 40 percent of the targeted sidewalks have been replaced since the program’s inception. City officials were not planning on still having 60 percent of the work outstanding.

“The $25 was great, and I think when we started it, we believed we would be done in 15 years, and the costs just don’t go very far anymore,” Pollock said.

Pollock said that if the city continued to run the program in the same way, it would take another 17 years to complete; city officials would like for it to be done quicker than that.

City Council did not levy the $25 fee this year in anticipation of a new program.

If the bond is approved, the program would be completed in five years and work would begin in 2018.

City officials said a dramatic increase in concrete prices was a large factor in the money collected not stretching as far as city administrators initially estimated.

Pollock said that when the initial sidewalk program was established, City Council members did not want a program in which ndividuals would be assessed for the slabs in front of their homes, because that often results in large costs. Pollock said that instead, they wanted a program where the cost would be spread out. He said a bond proposal would achieve that objective.

“Anyone who has a bigger lot or a corner lot knows that it can be very expensive — an expensive proposition into the thousands — so sharing it certainly makes a lot of sense,” he said.

Pollock said he hopes that people who have already had their sidewalks repaired would support the ballot initiative.

“It’s going to fix the sidewalks all throughout the community,” he said. “A lot of people bike, walk, and they say it’s great going in the areas that have already been done, because you have really good sidewalks.”

The bond funds would also pay for Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps.

“So basically, for $8 more a year per resident, we’re going to shorten the finish time from 17 years to five years, and by and large, it’s really not going to be any type of increase with the drop in (the debt millage),” said City Councilman Jim Horton.

No one has spoken out publicly against the proposal.

One resident spoke in favor of the bond during the council’s July 5 meeting.

“I understand that the city is considering alternative methods to fund sidewalk repair, and now that I’ve got that understanding — which I didn’t have before tonight — I am just here to encourage you to go forward with that,” said resident and avid biker Peter Trussell. “I recognize that it will likely result in some sort of funding requirement out of the city, out of the residents, and I can tell you that you will have at least one vote in the affirmative.”

A date for the council to vote on putting the bond initiative on the November ballot had not been set as of press time. Check for future City Council meeting agendas.

Pollock said that after the sidewalk program is completed, the city administration would then review it and do whatever the City Council and the residents feel is the best plan going forward.