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The city must pay for a new waterline under the Abernethy Bridge, but also has other water needs.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The city of West Linn is working to find a way to pay for the replacement of a waterline beneath the Abernethy Bridge. The city of West Linn is considering asking voters to approve a water infrastructure bond measure likely totaling at least $14 million in the near future. When West Linn residents might see the measure on their ballots, and what the total dollar figure will be, remain undecided.

West Linn city staff and bond counsel have vetted ballot language for a bond of $14 million that would pay for the replacement of the city's waterline underneath the Abernethy Bridge.

This language was presented to the West Linn City Council at a meeting Tuesday, June 21.

However, the council expressed hesitation to put the bond on November's ballot and asked staff to determine whether the vote could occur in 2023 or 2024 instead.

The timeline for when the city needs to pay for the waterline will depend on the Oregon Department of Transportation, which the city entered an agreement with late last year. The city agreed to cover the cost of the waterline, which needs to be replaced along with ODOT's improvements to the Abernethy Bridge.

However, because the waterline still has 20 years of life left, West Linn officials are wary of taking on the cost for replacing the pipe.

"I think the city of West Linn should not be saddled with this waterline replacement cost entirely, because this is being done in conjunction with a project by ODOT. This waterline has more life left in it," Councilor Mary Baumgardner said. "If we were a city that was not remotely capable of paying for this, and adjacent to a project of ODOT, what would be done? I don't believe that they would be leaving a community without water."

Council President Rory Bialostosky said he'd like to see the city address its other water infrastructure needs with the bond, so it would not have to return to voters to ask for more money just a few years down the road.

Aging water mains throughout town mean the city expects to undertake more pipe replacements in the coming years. This work could cost between $10 million and $20 million.

City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos told the council that the results of a recent community survey, which asked residents about their thoughts on various capital needs and their appetites for funding them, should be available later this week.

Mayor Jules Walters wanted to make sure $14 million was enough to cover the waterline replacement.

The city has discussed ODOT taking on some of the costs of the waterline, but, according to Walters, those talks have not gone far with the state.

"Our negotiations with ODOT have not gone well," Walters said. "They do not see our argument that the waterline still has life."

Bialostosky added that he wanted the city to take time to thoroughly explore other potential funding options like the American Rescue Plan Act or state or federal grants

As proposed, the $14 million bond measure, which West Linn voters could see as early as November, would raise property taxes by 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. For a home with an assessed value of $386,000, property taxes would raise an estimated $81 annually.

The council will discuss the bond measure, the city's other water needs and ODOT's timeline for payment of the waterline at a future meeting.

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