PASCO — The Pasco City Council is divided on the timing for upgrading Fourth Avenue near the Franklin County Courthouse.
Pasco City Councilman Bob Hoffmann said Monday that project is why he can't support the proposed 2011 capital projects budget.
The preliminary budget, which the council is expected to vote on next week, includes funding for 50 projects, including 17 new ones. And it budgets $6.9 million in new projects and added money for ongoing projects.
The $850,000 Fourth Avenue project would improve the road between Court and Sylvester streets by adding bicycle lanes, pedestrian safety at intersections and landscaping. A $400,000 state transportation enhancement grant is helping pay for the project.
Hoffmann said he can't justify spending city dollars on this kind of project right now.
He earlier suggested removing Fourth Avenue street improvements from the project list for 2011 and focusing on higher priorities such as a $10 million police station and municipal court building.
And the road is adjacent to the county courthouse, where the county jail needs upgrading and more courtroom space is needed, Hoffmann said.
Councilman Al Yenney said he agrees there are other places the money could be used.
"I think we have to look at the complete downtown area," he said.
But Councilwoman Rebecca Francik said the project needs to be on the list for 2011 because it's something Lourdes Medical Center has asked the city to consider for a number of years.
Pasco already improved Fourth Avenue between Highway 395 and Court Street in a $300,000 project this year.
Hoffmann and Councilman Tom Larsen voted against the first reading of the ordinance approving the capital projects budget.
Larsen echoed Hoffmann's comments, and added that he couldn't support the budget because of "the Lewis Street overpass monstrosity that we'll never receive the money to build."
The Lewis Street overpass project would replace the aging railroad underpass. The preliminary 2011 capital projects budget includes about $1.9 million for right of way purchases and design and engineering for the $31 million project.
Larsen has previously said that he thinks the overpass should be two bridges, one on Lewis and one on Clark, instead of the current Y-shaped bridge plan that connects with Lewis and Clark streets with one-way couplets on the west side of the tracks.
Mayor Matt Watkins said he thinks the city can accomplish both the Fourth Avenue and Lewis Street overpass projects.
"I think the Fourth Street improvement is an investment that is overdue," he said.
The city council will hold a special meeting Monday at 7 p.m. to consider the 2011 operating and capital projects budgets. The regular workshop will follow the special session.
* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org