City addresses north/south debate

ALAMOSA — Although he said the assignment was nearly offensive to him, as a result of questions raised during a recent candidate forum Alamosa City Public Works Director Pat Steenburg presented to the city council Wednesday night totals the city has spent on major projects on the north and south sides of the railroad track in recent years.

“There was some talk about inequities in the distribution of our capital funds,” Steenburg said. “We wanted to put this argument to bed.”

In the last five years, the city has spent $2.6 million on capital infrastructure projects occurring north of the railroad tracks and $4.9 million south of the tracks, if parks/recreation projects like the current ice rink/multipurpose pavilion, pictured above, are included. Excluding parks/recreation projects, the totals would be $2.4 million on the north side over the last five years and $1.9 million on the south side. The difference amounts to one street project, Steenburg explained.

(This does not include regular maintenance work like pothole patching, which totaled 4,087 potholes as of June 1 in this year alone all over town.)

Steenburg said this covers about 60 projects during that time, and although the numbers are not down to the penny, “this should be very representative and very close.”

He added, “I think that shows a very even split, and I think that shows a very strong consideration for all areas of the city. These numbers show for the last five years at least there’s been a very even split.”

He said the city does not record project expenditures in terms of the areas of the city where they are located, and he did not even know where the ward lines were drawn because he just did not consider that sort of thing in deciding what kind of capital projects needed to be completed.

The types of factors he does take into account, he said, are traffic counts, safety, asphalt life cycles, age, coordination with other projects, redundancy and cost savings. If he could fix something now for $50,000 instead of spending $300,000 on it later, he will do it because he wants to make the best investment for the taxpayer, he explained.

“That plays as much into my recommendations as anything else,” he said. “The consideration of ward boundaries never played a role in my recommendations. The geographic areas — north/south, east/west — doesn’t play a role, neither does the demographics of the area. It was almost offensive for me to hear that.”

Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks added that the city staff do not use the terms north/south in speaking of the city but were only using those terms for purposes of this report, since it became an issue during the candidate forum.

Breaking down the infrastructure improvements by year, Steenburg said that in 2013 the city spent $179,000 on projects that were completed that year on the north side of the tracks and $517,000 south of the tracks, whether or not parks/recreation projects are included; in 2014, $374,000 on the north side and $415,000 on the south side, regardless of parks/recreation projects; and in 2015, $550,000 on the north side and $566,000 on the south side, whether or not parks/rec projects were included.

In 2016, because of First Street and Craft Drive projects, considerably more was spent on the north side, $606,000, compared to $219,000 on the south side, including parks/rec projects. Taking parks/rec projects (namely golf course pump and pump station) out of the equation in 2016 the city spent $406,000 on the north side and $219,000 on the south side.

So far this year, 2017, the city has spent $924,000 on the north side and $3.2 million on the south side, including parks/rec (namely the ice rink/multipurpose pavilion) and $924,000 on the north side and $284,000 on the south side if parks/rec projects are taken out of the equation.

“I see the multipurpose facility as a huge benefit to the area,” Steenburg said.

Brooks said because of the First Street project, which is north of the tracks, the numbers will be skewed in 2018 and 2019. The same would be true, however, she said if the city took on a major project such as State Avenue on the south side.

Councilman Charles Griego said there is still a mindset by some people that the city does not spend as much in Wards 3 and 4, and he has tried to erase that thinking of north/south.

“This is a whole city,” Griego said. “Years ago it was divided. This community was divided.”

He added that it has taken a lot of years to get to the point of seeing the city as one and not divided, and he hoped that division would eventually go away entirely.

“We don’t ever want to go back,” he said.

Mayor Josef Lucero said sometimes people see paved streets in new subdivisions and think the city has paid for those, but those are paid for by the development itself.

Councilor Ty Coleman thanked Steenburg for the data. He said this is the kind of solid information that can dispel misunderstandings over this issue.

Councilor Michael Stefano, who serves Ward 4, thanked Steenburg for his efforts. He said a lot of people probably don’t see a lot of work that is being accomplished on the south side aside from the ice rink/pavilion. Steenburg said quite a bit of street work had been performed on the south side this year, such as South Craft, Railroad Avenue and 10th Street.

“It’s hard to see unless it goes past your house,” he said.