Who will pay, and how much?

Winslow 'streetscape' funding at issue.

All islanders would pay for the coming Winslow Way “streetscape” plan.

Those on the city’s water and sewer system would pay the most, about $39 per month more than they’re paying now. Most would pay about $8 extra each month. Planners say that’s the worst-case scenario for funding the $20.6 million project.

But at costs like that, said City Councilor Bill Knobloch, it should be put to a public vote.

“The scope of the streetscape project and the dollars involved preclude a decision by council alone,” said Knobloch in a prepared statement. “My approach is that it requires a public authorization prior to funding due to the large public debt that will be incurred and the steep rise in service bills to community households.”

Opinions among councilmembers varied at a workshop on Wednesday. The event was designed to outline several components of the project, but funding quickly became the focus.

Some shared views similar to Knobloch, while others said they view the streetscape as mostly a utility project for which a public vote isn’t necessary.

Questioned by the council about whether the city has considered creating a new Local Improvement District – which would ensure that those benefitting from the improvements bear the costs – Finance Director Elray Konkel answered yes. The problem, he said, is determining which customers specifically would benefit from the work.

Planners at the meeting briefly outlined alternatives to the recommended option. Those ranged from a $13.7 patch-job to a $33 million version that would include a new crossing over the ravine. Bidding strategies also were discussed.

Planners estimate the cost of the project would increase by $2 million for each year it’s delayed, should that happen.

If there were no grant money available to fund the $20.6 million preferred alternative, $8.1 million in funding would come from councilmanic bonds; the rest, $12.5 million, would come via revenue bonds, to be repaid by increased utility fees.

The highest fees would be paid by those customers on the city’s water and sewer system, a group that primarily includes customers located in Winslow.

The public will get a closer look at the latest plans at a town hall meeting on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Construction of the project is scheduled to begin in 2009.

“A lot more thought needs to go in to the financing of this,” said Councilman Jim Llyewellyn.

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