Morgan City voters participating in early voting for the Nov. 19 election, which begins Saturday and continues for one week, will have to decide whether they want to see repairs made to city streets.
In addition to a vote on a state constitutional amendment that would prevent new taxes and fees on the sale of real estate, voters will determine the fate of a 0.3 percent sales tax that will be dedicated to road improvements.
The tax calls for the issuance of up to $4 million in revenue bonds for 10 years to repair city streets.
The estimated cost for the work is about $3.96 million, according to an economic feasibility study the City Council commissioned Miller Engineers in Franklin to prepare.
The streets included are Second and Sixth streets, Federal and Ditch avenues, Victor II Boulevard, David Drive, Veterans Boulevard, Youngs Road and an area between Oceaneering International and InterMoor.
Mayor Tim Matte said he thinks the citizens have recognized the need for the work, and city officials agree the work needs to be done, too.
The reason for these unrepaired streets, Matte said, is not because the city didn’t want to complete them.
“The reason they go unaddressed is because we don’t have any significant funding for street improvements,” Matte said.
While the city was given $1.2 million in Road Royalty funding from the parish in 2000, much of it was spent for road repairs in the years thereafter when Tim Tregle was in office, Matte said.
That left the city with about an average of $23,800 in road royalty funding per year, which was boosted by, on average, another $60,000 per year once the Amelia Belle riverboat casino came to the area.
A year’s worth of parish funding, Matte said, is not enough to complete an overlay. Instead, he said at the current rate of funding, the city has to accumulate two to four years’ allocations.
Consequently, “what we have more or less is a backlog of street repair work that needs to be done,” he said.
According to city figures, a 0.3 percent tax equates to 3 cents of tax for every $10 spent in Morgan City and 30 cents in taxes per $100 spent here.
If the tax passes, collections — required by law — could not be instituted until Jan. 1.
If not for the tax, Matte has said the other alternative would be to use the parish funding they receive as best they can, lobby the parish for additional funds or wait for increased monies that would be remitted to the parish for severance tax collections tied to oil and gas operations in the state when those tax collections reach the record 2008 funding levels.
The earliest that threshold could be reached is the 2013 fiscal year; and when it does happen, the parish will have more roads to focus on than just Morgan City’s, Matte has said.
While the city is bonding the monies, it does plan to use a portion of it — as well as annual road royalty funding allotments and any excess sales taxes — to fund any unexpected repairs that may spring up in addition to the list of repairs outlined.
With a 0.3 percent collection, the city expects to generate 2012 collections of $816,000 in sales taxes as well as no more than $487,000 per year in debt service (at an interest rate of 4 percent) for the next 10 years. Using those figures, city officials have determined that they would have, on average, $413,900 per year to spend on roads. That figure includes the road royalty funding allotment.
Matte said while the 4 percent debt service rate was used for the project calculations, the city’s bond attorney, Jerry Osbourne of Foley and Judell, a New Orleans bond attorney firm, said the rate should be lower.
If the proposition passes and the bonds are issued quickly, Matte said he is hopeful work could begin late in the first quarter or early second quarter of 2012.
While all of the streets are of utmost priority, Matte said the ones that can be started the quickest will be the ones that will be undertaken first.
Among those that Matte said the city should be able to start first are the concrete jobs, which involve the repair work on Sixth Street, David Drive, Veterans Boulevard and Youngs Road.
The Sixth Street work includes Levee to South Everett; the David Drive repairs span from Victor II Boulevard to La. 70; the Veterans Boulevard work includes the west and east lanes from Brashear Avenue to Fig Street; and the Youngs Road work includes areas from Myrtle Street to McClelland.
Matte said Federal Avenue, the second priciest estimate ($837,263) would need a little more work than these previously mentioned areas. It will require asphalt patch and overlay. Work on the roadway will be complete from Levee Road to Onstead Street and from Bowman to Barrow streets.
While Victor II is a high priority, Matte said the project is much more involved and is expected to consume the bulk of the bonded money (about $1.37 million) because it will involve subsurface work in addition to the resurfacing of the roadway.
Other planned work includes asphalt patching on Second Street between Union and South Railroad and Railroad to Egle Street.
Asphalt overlay also is planned between Oceaneering and InterMoor at McClelland Road, while asphalt patch is planned for Ditch Avenue from Railroad Avenue to La. 182.
Depending on what contractors and city officials decide, street work could be ongoing in multiple areas at the same time.
Matte said ideally, he would like to complete all of the roadwork in a year and focus on other roadwork problems that may arise in the years after.
“Can we get it all done in the next year?” he asked of the $4 million in work. “I’m not sure. But that would be the attempt.”
Among the other areas that could be targeted for additional roadwork include such areas as Fourth and Fifth streets and roads in Elliot and Lakeside subdivisions.