Vote on residential street fee set for next week

Crews perform work on a road in Portland May 21, 2014. (KOIN 6)
Crews perform work on a road in Portland May 21, 2014. (KOIN 6)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Saying the city has “talked about this for 13 years, it’s time to act,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales presided over a five-plus hour public meeting packed with people generally opposed to a new street fee.

“We wish we weren’t here,” Hales said. “We don’t like the idea of one more fee.”

But he cited other cities, including West Linn, Tigard and Lake Oswego, with street fees passed by their council.

Originally, the proposed Portland street fees would cost households about $138 per year. Businesses, non-profits and some lobbyists have been very vocal about their opposition to this fee.

The public hearing on Thursday afternoon gave people a chance to voice their opinion.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick (KOIN 6 News, file)
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick (KOIN 6 News, file)

Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick explained why the city needs to charge people monthly fees to fix the roads and why they don’t want to put it to a public vote.

“People would want us to solve the problem, but none of the ways to solve the problem would pass,” Novick said.

Novick explained that the city has been using gas tax money, parking revenue and some dedicated federal funds to repair what it can afford, but said overall costs have grown exponentially.

However, Hales and Novick have backed off a bit on the fee. They said the formula they’ll use to determine how much businesses will pay needs some work.

They won’t pass the business portion of the fee structure next week as they had planned. They hope instead to get a better formula figured out by November.

People packed Portland City Hall during a public meeting over proposed street fees, May 29, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
People packed Portland City Hall during a public meeting over proposed street fees, May 29, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

That might not be enough to sway the dozens who showed up to speak in opposition to the plan.

Although not all of the 110-plus people who signed up to speak were opposed to the flat rate.

Some organizations, including Bicycle Transportation Alliance, and several individuals spoke in favor of the fee.

An amendment

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who has concerns about the amount of the fee, successfully got an amendment approved to lower the household cost from $11.56 a month to $6 a month — and increase over time.

The second year the fee would rise to $9 per month, and then to $12 per month the third year.

That means the street fees would cost households $72 per year, then $108, then $144.

The fact Fritz got that amendment OK’d could mean she will support this fee at the council meeting next week — without requiring a public vote.

Fritz will be the deciding vote.

But Commissioner Dan Saltzman got applause when he reiterated his stance that he won’t support a street fee without a public vote.

City-by-city street fee breakdown

As mentioned before, Hales cited other cities with street fees passed by their council during Thursday’s meeting.

People, some with signs, packed Portland City Hall during a public meeting over proposed street fees, May 29, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
People, some with signs, packed Portland City Hall during a public meeting over proposed street fees, May 29, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Hales said 28 nearby cities charge a street fee.

The following is a breakdown of what people in some of those cities are paying monthly:

  • Oregon City – $11.56 per residence
  • West Linn – $10.31 per residence
  • Tigard – $5.56 per residence
  • Lake Oswego – $4 per residence
  • Tualatin – $3.92 per residence

The rate for businesses in those cities is determined by square footage and the number of customers.

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