Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Tax would be used to improve city streets

Officials discuss putting issue on November ballot

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CRESCENT SPRINGS - Officials here are trying to decide whether to put a special property tax on the ballot this Novemberfor street improvements.

If approved by voters, money raised from the tax would be used to widen substandard streets, said Crescent Springs Council member Tom Vergamini. It also would add sidewalks, storm water control and curbs and gutters in one of Crescent Springs' oldest areas.

"One part of the city has streets that started out as dirt roads and weren't built to modern subdivision standards," Vergamini said. "That whole area divided by Western Reserve (Road) doesn't have sidewalks, and the streets are of varying widths and conditions."

Vergamini estimated about 20 of Crescent Springs' 61 streets weren't built according to today's standards and generally lack curbs and gutters, storm drainage and sidewalks.

Residents can learn more about improvements and say whether a tax would be the best way to pay for them at meetings of Crescent Springs' capital improvements subcommittee at 6 p.m. today and July 29. Vergamini is chairman of that group.

At two earlier meetings, there was little support for a tax to pay for road improvements, Vergamini said. Before specifying an amount, city officials first want to see if residents support the idea of a tax.

After its next two meetings, the capital improvements subcommittee will recommend to council whether to put the tax on the November ballot, Vergamini said.

Ruth Schweitzer, a resident of Estelle Street for 48 years, said the potholes, broken asphalt and extra gravel on her street create hazards for drivers. Rainstorms also create gullies in front of her home, she said.

"What I would like to see is that the holes get patched with some regularity and that the drainage system be taken care of," Schweitzer said.

Even though there are only four homes on her street, she said many use Estelle as a shortcut to a day care, two apartment buildings and nearby single-family homes.

Streets in Crescent Springs' older section were designed in the 1890s and have varying widths and setbacks, Vergamini said.

During the past four years, Crescent Springs City Council has widened Lorraine Court, Horton Street, Terry Lane and Ritchie Street and added curbs and gutters, Vergamini said. Officials are exploring a tax for street improvements to have a dedicated source of income for needed improvements and to address infrastructure needs more quickly, he said. Vergamini said future street improvement costs are only going to go up.

As an alternative to a special property tax, Crescent Springs officials are considering a park tax. That would pay off loans on the city park that expire in 2016 and free up that money for infrastructure improvements, Vergamini said.

"Obviously, nobody likes to increase taxes," he said. "But this is an expensive endeavor that requires attention. The question is, 'What is the best solution?'"

In Kenton County, Park Hills and Fort Mitchell already have taxes for street and sidewalk maintenance and repairs. Last year, Fort Wright voters narrowly defeated a similar tax.

Tonight, the Fort Wright Vision Committee may discuss whether to reconsider the street improvement tax as it seeks public suggestions on the second year of a five-year plan addressing seven major areas - everything from emergency services and infrastructure to community involvement. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. at the city building, 409 Kyles Lane.

"If we do reintroduce the tax, I think we'd revamp the proposal a little bit," said Fort Wright Administrator Larry Klein. Should Fort Wright officials propose a new street improvement tax, the soonest they would put it on the ballot would be November, 2004, he said.

If you go

What: Meetings of Crescent Springs capital improvement subcommittee to discuss whether the city should put a special tax on the November ballot to pay for street improvements

When: Tonight and July 29. Both meetings are at 6 p.m.

Where: Crescent Springs city building, 739 Buttermilk Pike

Information: (859) 341-3017


E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

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Tax would be used to improve city streets