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COOS BAY — At Tuesday night’s work session Coos Bay City Council members discussed proposing a transportation utility fee as a means of generating revenue to fund road maintenance.

Transportation utility fees have been a topic for discussion at a number of council work sessions over the past few months. In the council’s last discussion it asked city staff to gather information on projected revenue if a $10 monthly fee were imposed on residents' water bills.

The council decided to extend the discussion on this topic through the end of January before making a final decision on the fee.

“I would like to continue to take public comment at work sessions and council meetings and make a decision at the last meeting in January,” Coos Bay Mayor Joe Benetti said. “I just want to make sure we get the information out there as much as we can.”

When council began talking about a transportation utility fee a few months ago it was considering a $5 fee. However, some members of the council thought that it would be better to make the fee $10 so that the fees can address more city street projects in a timelier manner.

“We’ve seen our neighbors start with $5 fees and then raise them to $15 or $20, so the idea was if we charge the $10 fee we could afford to maintain our streets, so that all other money we have for roads can be used on replacement projects,” councilor Lucinda DiNovo said.

One of the ways Coos Bay funds road maintenance currently is through a state collected gas tax. The state receives money from gasoline tax, and distributes a percentage to each city based on the amount of registered vehicles there are in the area.

“Through the years the gas tax revenue has been rather stagnant,” Coos Bay Public Works director Jim Hossley said. “While the city’s gas tax remains relatively the same the costs continue to climb and climb.”

According to Hossley, if the city were to depend solely on the state gas tax to replace all of the city's road infrastructure it could take as long as 70 years.

With a $10 per month fee Hossley said it will still take the city around 35 years to replace all of the roads. A $10 fee collected through citizen’s water bills would generate $750,000 per year in revenue for the city’s roads.

All of the councilors at the work session agreed that the biggest complaint they hear from their constituents is that the roads in the city need to be repaired.

“I hear more complaints about streets than anything else in this city,” Benetti said.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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