By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
Major Thoroughfare Program Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle spoke to the Daily Journal’s Emily Le Coz about the committee’s request for rainy day funds from the City Council. The council must decide whether to allow the group to dip into municipal reserves to cover potential overages for a series of road projects. The committee says it will reimburse the funds when it collects dedicated revenues from its 10-mill property tax. The tax produces about $4 million annually.
Q. How did the Major Thoroughfare Program run into this cash flow situation?
A. There’s money coming in to cover the projects, but we won’t get it all at once. And we have an opportunity to advance several projects, particularly the East Main Street widening, right now. The committee’s not willing to go forward with those projects unless the City Council understands it will put us in a cash flow situation, and unless they agree that there is a solution: to use the money in the rainy day fund and to replenish that as the 10 mills is collected. There is $20 million projected to be paid in this phase. The current projects we are discussing are not more than $13.5 million under our estimates. There is more than enough money to cover the projects. It is a timing issue only.
Q. When did the Major Thoroughfare Committee realize this would happen?
A. East Main came in $200,000 over our original estimate, which made us step back and consider all projects could have overages as well. We asked the city financial officers to run cash flow projections … and without assistance, it was going to be tight. Without assistance, we could not do East Main from Veterans Boulevard to U.S. 45. The committee considers this to be one of its highest priorities.
Q. I understand you want to spend about $100,000 for a study. Tell me about that.
A. We’ve been using a study that we prepared in 1991. It has been very helpful, but we’re coming to the end of that study, and we need to have a professional look at all of our roads and traffic patterns and make recommendations. We’d like to have the recommendation in time for us to begin planning Phase 6 of the Major Thoroughfare Program. And we usually start planning our new phases two years before they go to the voters, so it’s critical that we start now. The election for Phase 6 will be in May 2016.