In the six years since Nevada City voters passed Measure S, increasing local sales tax to finance total street rebuilding, $2.7 million has been spent to remake eight of the city’s 20 miles of streets.
Approximately $450,000 a year has gone into repairing and resurfacing streets, replacing outmoded sidewalks and building some new ones, according to City Engineer Bill Falconi.
On this, the sixth anniversary of its passage, Measure S continues to bring in the one-half percent tax voters mandated.
“We are right on target to complete the repaving of every street in the city as well as complete the many sidewalk upgrades within the 16-year time frame when the measure ends,” Falconi said.
While the recession has reduced the city’s sales tax revenues, there has been a commensurate drop in paving prices, also due to the recession, which has made up for the income loss, he added.
“Before repaving any given street the water and sewer lines beneath the street surface are also upgraded when needed,” Falconi said. “Many of those lines go back almost 100 years.”
The funds for this infrastructure work come from the fund accounts of city water and sewer monies, not from Measure S revenues.
“One great, unexpected side benefit has been the city’s ability to come up with matching funds as grant monies come along for projects already on our Improvements Plan,” Falconi said. “Recently, for example, we were able to secure $350,000 of grant funds to help create state of the art walkways, connecting Searls Avenue, Gold Flat Road and Zion Street, and ultimately connect the entire walking complex to a new walkway from the Old Nevada City Highway to the city of Grass Valley. Prior to the Measure S revenue, we would have had to pass on this great opportunity.”
Stone facing for that project is being done by local stone mason Dan Reinhart.
“Making all of this happen in these challenging times has been a tremendous accomplishment for Nevada City, its residents, businesses and visitors. In my 40 years with the city, this has been by far the best project I’ve seen,” Falconi concluded.
Following passage of Measure S in November of 2006 a Citizens Oversight Committee was formed to provide eyes-on resident participation in spending the incoming tax money.
Local resident Patti Foster became chair of the five-member group, a position she still holds. Along with Foster, Mike Barber, Rod Brown, Conley Weaver and Niel Locke have served on the committee since its inception. They meet twice a year — in the spring to learn what street projects are planned for the summer and in the fall for a recap of the work.
Meetings are open to the public. Their dates can be found by contacting City Hall.
“I care very much about Nevada City,” Foster said, as to why she joined the committee. “And the streets were in horrible condition. It just seemed like such a large amount of money, and as I said in my letter of application, I wanted to help take the politics out of how the funds were allotted. I felt it was important, No. 1, that the funds were spent the way they were supposed to be spent, and No. 2, that it all was done in a timely manner.”
Falconi attends every meeting.
“He’s the one who answers all our questions,” Foster said. “He also presents updates on money spent so the committee can exercise its oversight responsibility. We are so fortunate to have Bill doing this. He has a passion for the town. He really cares about getting this done and getting it right.
“The thing I believe the public doesn’t understand is why some streets are not being paved,” Foster said. “The problem is the sewer system. Measure S money cannot be used for fixing sewers, a job that has to be done before paving. That money has to be found separately.”