Pasco moves ahead on street improvements

Pasco is moving forward on street improvements in part of the Kurtzman Park neighborhood despite vocal opposition from a few property owners.

The council established a local improvement district, or LID, where property owners would be assessed to pay for improvements such as curbs, sidewalks, gutters and streetlights, in a 5-1 vote Tuesday.

Jerry Miller, who owns multiple properties in the neighborhood, said the project doesn't provide a benefit for property owners.

He said an estimate he received meant he likely would pay about $30,000 for his properties. "I'll end up having to sell," said Miller, who is retired.

The city can use the federal grant program to pay the entire assessment for low-income families, said City Manager Gary Crutchfield. That only can be used for one property per family.

Joe Scales, who lives in the neighborhood, said he can't afford the assessment, but wouldn't fit within income guidelines.

"It feels like you are just imposing your will on us and there is nothing we can do," he told the council.

But property owners do have 30 days starting today to give the city clerk written notice of opposition, Crutchfield said.

If the owners of 60 percent or more of the properties oppose the measure, then the project dies, he said. If fewer than 60 percent of the property owners oppose it, the city council will make the decision.

Edel Barajas, who lives on Hugo Street, said he would like to have the sidewalks and street lights that are on the list of planned improvements.

Barajas said most of his block supports the project. Some of his Spanish-speaking neighbors were in the audience to show support.

The city council divided in half planned improvements in the second part of the northern Kurtzman Park neighborhood after staff had difficulty obtaining the rights of way needed in the portion north of Alton Street.

The improvements in the revised boundaries will cost about $605,000. That doesn't take into account the $334,000 from the Community Development Block Grant program that will help pay for the project.

The smaller boundary includes 50 parcels with more than 40 different property owners, said Rick White, city community and economic development director.

Because the size of the project has been decreased, property owners in the smaller boundary will have lower assessments, White said.

Councilwoman Rebecca Francik said improvements are needed in east Pasco to make the properties there more valuable and help that part of town attract growth.

"We need to make sure that all of the folks of Pasco do have opportunities for their land to improve," Mayor Matt Watkins agreed.

The city plans to finish the last portion of the Kurtzman Park neighborhood improvements in a third phase.

Councilman Tom Larsen voted against the project, and Councilman Al Yenney recused himself because of a possible conflict of interest.

Also Tuesday:

-- The city council gave Crutchfield a $10,000 merit award for his service in 2010 in a 4-3 vote.

Councilmen Bob Hoffmann, Larsen and Yenney voted against the measure.

Hoffmann said he feels Crutchfield is deserving of a merit award because of his hard work and exemplary service.

But he said he thought the amount should be lower because of the current economic times.

Francik said city employees get 10 percent of savings they bring to the city with city manager and department head approval. Crutchfield has saved the city about $242,000 per year through his actions.

Yenney said he thinks the city needs to raise the cap on his salary. Crutchfield is deserving of the increase, but it shouldn't be done through a merit award, he said.

-- Pasco will offer two homes that the Pasco School District would otherwise demolish to low- and moderate-income families.

The city council decided in a 5-2 vote to accept the homes from the district.

The city will use Community Development Block Grant dollars to buy lots in east Pasco, move the homes and rehabilitate them. The city then will sell them to qualifying families.

Crutchfield said the city likely will get back all of its investment in the homes. The money will go back to the grant fund to be reused for future projects.

Councilmen Larsen and Hoffmann voted against the proposal.