Costa Mesa puts numbers to street repairs

After months of calling for greater capital improvement spending, some Costa Mesa City Council members saw a more detailed picture of the city's infrastructure needs this week.

Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz on Thursday night said the city's streets are considered good by county standards, but that many alleys need serious repair and some storm drains need to be overhauled.

Administrators prioritized the capital projects, hoping to give council members context as they finalize the 2012-13 fiscal year budget.

Members of the council majority have been pushing to cut employment spending to pay for infrastructure upgrades, while the one minority member has advocated for patience and said some of the repairs can wait. Their competing visions will play out in the next month.

"This is not a wish list," said Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer. "It needs to be on a track to do it this year."

The city's most flood-prone storm drains and most damaged alleys could be on track for repairs if the council carves out $10.3 million in next year's budget, Munoz said.

About half of that has already been saved for roads and alleys, but administrators are looking for ways to pay for remaining repairs, and to fund the roads in future years.

"That's going to be a tough transition to get to there," city CEO Tom Hatch said, referring to the 2013-14 fiscal year budget, when he would need to find $4.7 million for road repairs in order to reach the level council members want.

Costa Mesa's streets, on average, score 78 on a scale of 100, which is in the "good" category of Orange County Transportation Authority rankings. Council members said they want to reach 85 — one of the highest scores in the county.

They dramatized the situation Thursday.

"For the people on Broadway, it's like a buggy ride," said Councilman Steve Mensinger.

The alleys are in worse shape — a majority of them fall into the "poor" or "very poor" range.

Munoz said it would cost $1.4 million per year, over seven years, until the city was rid of the "very poor" sections. To fix all of the alleys would cost $15.6 million.

It's a similar magnitude for the storm drains. Munoz said there were about $16 million in remaining repairs from a 2006 master plan.

With a $4.6-million infusion next year, the council could fix the "hot spots," he said, that caused the most consistent flooding.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece said she wanted to address "urgent safety issues," but to be careful not to cut so much out of the operating budget. She said the city needed to be "able to retain and attract the best employees."

Hatch said that he would propose some options at the next week's council meeting. Recently, council members indicated they would support raising the business license tax and some other small revenue increases that might amount to $3 million. Otherwise, Hatch has said he would cut from the employment budget.

Twitter: @mreicher

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