Councilors: Public needs to be as transparent as possible

The Laramie City Council decided during a work session Tuesday to reach out to the community, so constituents could have a greater say in the city’s policy on paving gravel roads.

The City Council adopted a goal to improve the conditions of streets and storm water management earlier in the year. The first element of the goal was to adopt a financial policy for improving unpaved streets and corresponding areas of insufficient drainage. The council set Sept. 30 as its goal to decide on the policy.

Previously, the council had a work session on funding mechanisms and requested more information on local improvement districts. Todd Bishop, CEO and president of Kaiser Wealth Management, said the districts are a way to finance infrastructure improvements. The city would create a resolution that outlines improvements, boundaries and costs. The property owners can then protest the creation of the district.

If a majority do so, it would not go forward.

Bishop said the district would allow the city to bill the cost of the improvement to the people in the district. Laramie Mayor Andi Summerville said a concern she has heard about districts is the city might foreclose on houses if the owner cannot pay. Bishop said the city can set aside parts of tax revenue from gas and cigarettes to pay the bonds when homeowners fall behind. The missed payments, however, would still be expected to be paid. Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan said the Laramie city staff would work so no house would be foreclosed on. Since there is a lien on properties in the district, the remaining cost for the improvement would be paid when the property is sold.

Jordan presented four standards the city staff created for paving gravel streets. The first standard is just ribbon paving — a strip of asphalt flanked by drainage ditches. The second is ribbon with a 5-foot sidewalk. The third is ribbon with a 10-foot sidewalk, and the final standard is full paving, curb and gutter. Jordan said the first option, just ribbon, is the standard currently used.

Summerville said public meetings and constituent outreach needs to happen before the council decides on the paving standard and the amount property owners will be expected to pay. Laramie Vice Mayor Jayne Pearce said an open house with models that show the cost of the array of options is her preference. Councilwoman Phoebe Stoner said it would be the longer and harder route, but it would be the most transparent route.

Councilman Dave Paulekas said he likes all the transparency talk, but models and guidelines need to brought forward in the meetings with constituents. Summerville said the process needs to be transparent and have plenty of feedback from the public with all the options. Paulekas wants it to be clear there will be a partnership between homeowners and the city to pay for paving the street. He said there needs to be an expectation that homeowners will be expected to pay part of the bill.

Jordan confirmed there will be public listening sessions throughout Laramie, particularly in areas where paving will take place. Concerned about the turnover of the City Council members through elections at the end of the year, Paulekas said he wasn’t sure it would be a good idea to take so long. Jordan said she would send invites to the nominated candidates who have a chance to be on the council to come to the meetings.

Jordan said time and location of the meetings will be established in the coming weeks.

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