Charlotte City Council voted 5-to-2 Monday, March 27 to approve the first reading of a resolution that will place a $2 million millage proposal on the November general election ballot. The $2 million, which would be paid off over 20 years, would be used exclusively to reconstruct State Street in 2018. The resolution will go in front of the council for a second reading Monday, April 10.
The vote followed lengthy discussion from council members as to the merits of three different road improvement plans, each including differing funding mechanisms. Version 6, the newest version introduced by Mayor Tim Lewis, called for a $1.2 million bond and the use of $800,000 of O-I money in the form of an inter-fund loan to complete reconstruction on State Street in 2018. Councilmember Yvonne Ridge made the motion Monday night to approve version 6, but added an amendment to request a $2 million bond instead of the $1.2 for which the plan originally called.
Ridge said she was not in favor of using the O-I settlement money the city received in 2014 for roads.
“This is one-time money,” Ridge said. “To put it into roads, I think we could have better uses for it.”
Ridge said the council had originally discussed utilizing a portion of the settlement money to establish a revolving loan fund for city businesses.
Councilmen Brad Johnston and Anthony Russo agreed with Ridge that the O-I money could be used in a better way, though Russo and councilman Chris Bahmer voted against the resolution and $2 million bond.
“I would be flabbergasted if the citizens put a tax on themselves when we have that amount of money sitting in a lump sum somewhere,” Bahmer said of the O-I money, which he proposed utilizing in addition to an inter-fund loan through the city’s LDFA in version 3 of the city’s street improvement plan. “Until we explore every venue available I can’t see tax increases period, and we, in my opinion, haven’t even come close to that yet.”
Johnston agreed it would be a tough sell to voters, but said it was worth placing in front of the citizens to allow them to decide.
“I think we should try to sell a millage proposal to the people and see how much they really want these roads repaired,” Johnston said.
Lewis said he looked at a millage as the best way to move the city’s street improvement plan forward.
“We know it’s going to be about $2 million to do State Street and that puts tremendous fiscal pressure on our budget, particularly at a time when streets continue to be the number one issue people talk about in the city,” Lewis said.
The city recently finished paying on a 15-year bond that included money utilized to fix State Street in the early 2000s. City Manager Gregg Guetschow said of the $700,000 bonded at that time, only $100,000 went into fixing State Street. He said the entire bond was utilized on a number of streets in the city.
He said the city’s complete reconstruction plan for State Street would give it an estimated useful life of 40 to 50 years.
“As I’ve said before, half facetiously, basically what they did with that money is they painted the streets black,” Guetschow told council. “In terms of State Street, it’s a street that needs $2 million worth of work and they probably spent $100,000 on it.”
In addition to streets, councilmembers will continue to discuss how the O-I money will be used in the future. The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday, April 10 in council’s chambers, on the second floor of City Hall.