By Dave Boyce
Chances are reportedly good for a wet winter in 2014. Estimates from the U.S National Weather Service put the chances of a moderate El Nino climate pattern to 70 percent during summer and fall, and 80 percent in the fall and winter.
Woodside has taken notice. The town's landscape is steep, wooded, largely undeveloped and not served by a dedicated urban storm-drain system, with the exception of a few neighborhoods. To direct runoff water to San Francisco Bay, the town relies on creeks and swales and about 450 culvert or pipe-like entry points in varying states of repair.
The state of the town's "critical" infrastructure was topic No. 1 for the Town Council in discussing the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which starts July 1. The proposed $6 million budget allocates $150,000 for the design of a new pump station for the neighborhoods with sewers, $122,175 for an ongoing analysis of the condition of three old but beloved bridges, and $150,000 for an analysis of the storm drainage system, such as it is.
This storm drain analysis is likely to be the first step in a five-year rehabilitation program, with annual allocations of at least $100,00 per year — on top of the routine $500,000 annually allocated for road maintenance. Because drainage rehabilitation costs may increase once the analysis is complete, the $100,000 allocations are placeholders, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said.
Revenues are generally up, and Woodside is expected to have a surplus of about $650,000 as the fiscal year begins. The surplus will bring the general fund reserve to $3 million, or 47 percent of the town's annual operating expenses, well above the 30 percent required by the council.
If infrastructure costs "exceed what the Town's finances will bear," the council may have to look into other ways to fund the work, including bonds, low-interest loans or grants, Mr. Bryant said in his annual message included in the draft budget.
"We need the (drainage analysis) as fast as we can get it," Councilman Dave Tanner said at the council meeting. "Real soon, because we're going to have a nasty winter."
It's been four years since the council looked at plans to renovate the interior of the public library. Over the years, property tax revenues automatically earmarked for the project have grown. By July 1, the town is expected to have over $3 million available.
The project was to have gotten off the ground in 2010 when the council approved the preparation of construction documents, but a seismic study and retrofits of the building has added delays.
Among the changes to the interior outlined in the original plans: relocate the self-checkout area, create a study room and separate areas for children and teens, and design a more welcoming bookstore-like appearance. The changes would also add an environmentally conscious element to the building.
Two other delayed projects, painting Town Hall ($35,000) and rehabilitating the deck ($13,500), are scheduled for the coming year.
It's been busy at the planning desk in Town Hall. The Fees and Permits section of the budget shows significant increases in building permit revenues (up 8 percent for 2013-14), plan-check revenues (up 28 percent) and grading and site development revenues (up 58 percent).
The budget allocates $207,000 for consultant help: $100,000 to work on aligning the municipal code with the general plan; $15,000 to complete the climate action plan, as required by the general plan; and $72,000 for assistance to Planning Department staff in coordinating with the Architectural and Site Review Board and the Planning Commission. With much of the extra work associated with residential design and construction, the town may bring in a consulting architect.
"What are we looking at," Councilman Tom Shanahan asked of Planning Director Jackie Young about the overworked planning staff. "Ten hour days, 12 hour days?"
Ms. Young paused for a long moment. "They can exceed that," she said.
The council seemed content with allowing town management to figure out what their needs are. "None of us want to impose on the good will of our employees," Mr. Shanahan said.
The budget includes $20,000 for expenses for the Town Center Area Plan, including two community meetings in the fall led by Town Hall staff and intended to find consensus on next steps. Key issues are a scarcity of parking during peak hours and difficulty of moving in and around the area, regardless of the means of travel.
Getting to school
The town will be spending $215,600 in grant money and about $50,000 from town finances to improve safety and transit for people, horses and bicycles on the north side Woodside Road between the elementary school and Canada Road. The work includes more visible crosswalk warnings, narrower traffic lanes to make room for a pedestrian path, and improved drainage.
In related work on the south side of the road, the town will seek bids in July for road rehabilitation, dig?outs and improving the pedestrian path and drainage. The budget allocates $263,000 for this project.
Other priorities noted for future funding include crosswalks on Canada Road at Glenwood Avenue, a path from Cedar Lane to Woodside Road via the fire district station, and pedestrian warning signs and pavement markings on Mountain Home Road near Roberts Market.