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Grover Beach wants more funding to fix its streets 

Grover Beach may allow its Public Works Department to spend another $10 million to rehabilitate city streets even though current street renovation projects are incomplete.

Public Works Director and City Engineer Gregory Ray presented his department's case at the Aug. 23 City Council meeting for the city to release funds that exist as Measure K-14 bonds.

K-14—a bond initiative meant to offer some relief to the beach city's notoriously bad roads—gave the city $48 million to draw from over a 25-year period. Now in its seventh year, these funds have shrunk to $20 million. This means that Grover Beach has spent $4 million per year, so far.

click to enlarge STREET STYLING K-14 funds ensure that Trouville Ave. is reconstructed. - SCREENSHOT FROM GROVER BEACH CITY COUNCIL MEETING
  • Screenshot From Grover Beach City Council Meeting
  • STREET STYLING K-14 funds ensure that Trouville Ave. is reconstructed.

"When I started, we were spending roughly $30,000 a year," Ray said at the meeting.

When Ray began working with the city in 2011, three years before K-14 was passed, general fund revenue was allocated for street repairs. Grover Beach's streets "were horrendously underfunded for the last 30 years," he told New Times.

Public Works recommended that the city issue a $10 million bond from the $20 million remaining to fund an additional five projects that would span five years.

If the city completes its 13th K-14 funded project in the fall, Grover Beach will have rebuilt 60 percent of the streets that were earmarked for repair under the measure. These projects span mostly residential streets across several city blocks.

Though the pace of projects has been relatively quick, the city slowed down in 2017. That year, Grover Beach drew $15 million in bonds to start construction on some projects. With only a little more than $4 million left from those bonds, the incomplete projects are expected to be finished in the next three years.

"We exceeded the time period necessary to sufficiently draw the funds as required by the bonding agencies that we are working with. You have to draw down the bonds in a short period of years," Ray said at the meeting.

He added that street reconstruction does not exist in isolation. Once renovated, streets are subject to constant wear and tear in the car-dependent beach city. Street maintenance costs are roughly $1.5 million per year alone.

"The long-term maintenance costs of $1.5 million referenced in our staff report are considerable but necessary to maintain our investment in improved streets once all the streets are completed over the next 10 years," City Manager Matthew Bronson told New Times. "We will work to accommodate these costs within our budget in our future planning."

In 2013, Grover Beach worked with bond consultants to identify the city's maximum bonding capacity for street repairs, which was determined to be around $48 million.

"The council ultimately decided to propose a $48 million bond measure for voter approval and identified the streets to be included in the program at that time," Ray told New Times.

This also meant that there was no room to fund renovations on major streets. The city could spend general fund dollars, but Ray said that it would be quite a while before those streets saw any improvement. The lion's share of Grover Beach's general funds are funneled into public safety, Ray said, to the underfunded police and fire departments.

But there are some funding alternatives for roadwork. Grover Beach passed Measure F-20 in November 2020, which increased sales tax by 1 percent. The approximately $1.8 million that tax is expected to generate annually could potentially include infrastructure projects like rebuilding major streets such as South Oak Park Boulevard and West Grand Avenue. According to Bronson, F-20 is estimated to "generate $2.1 million this fiscal year" in general fund revenue. But where that money goes is ultimately up to the council.

Another option for street funding includes income from Grover Beach's cannabis industry.

With the council's consent, Public Works staff will bring the a $10 million bond resolution to the Nov. 22 meeting and the City Council will make its final decision on Dec. 13. Δ

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