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The bond measure would fund replacement of waterlines beneath three I-205 bridges

PMG FILE PHOTO - A pipe running beneath the Abernethy Bridge supplies all of West Linn's water. The pipe needs to be replaced along with bridge work planned by ODOT.At its next meeting July 25, the West Linn City Council is scheduled to vote on placing a $17.5 million bond measure on the ballot this November. The bond would fund the replacement of city waterlines beneath the Abernethy Bridge, West A Street and Sunset Avenue bridges along I-205.

Each of these bridges, starting with Abernethy, will be repaired or replaced in the coming years as part of the Oregon Department of Transportation's I-205 improvements project. Replacement of the waterlines will need to occur in conjunction with the bridge work.

In a survey conducted earlier this summer, the city asked West Linn residents how they'd feel about a $14 million bond for replacement of the Abernethy waterline. Of the 676 residents who responded, 79% said they were likely or very likely to approve such a measure while 13% said they would likely or very likely oppose the measure, 6% said they did not know and 2% said they would not vote.

When the council last discussed a waterline measure in June, the proposal was for $14 million, which would cover the expected costs of the Abernethy waterline.

All of the city's water runs through the Abernethy pipeline, which still has about 20 years of life left. Because of the waterline's remaining life, West Linn officials said they have tried to convince ODOT to cover some of the costs for its replacement, but those negotiations reportedly haven't gone far.

The current Abernethy Bridge would not withstand a major earthquake, according to ODOT. The new bridge and pipe would increase the resiliency of West Linn's water system in the event of such a disaster. The new pipe will also be larger, which "provides for additional fire suppression and drinking water flow capacity," according to a draft ballot measure explanatory statement.

As proposed, the bond would result in an increased property tax levy rate for West Linn residents of 25 cents per$1,000 of assessed value. For the average homeowner in West Linn with an assessed value of $386,000, the estimated annual property tax increase would be $97, according to the city.

During the June discussion, Council President Rory Bialostosky said he'd like the city to cover all of its water needs with this bond so it wouldn't have to return to voters in a few years, asking for more money to complete additional water infrastructure projects.

According to city staff, aging water infrastructure throughout town makes it likely the city will need to undertake other pipe replacements in the coming years. This work would cost an estimated $10-20 million.

The survey found that 74% of West Linn residents were likely to support a bond measure resulting in increases to property taxes of $60-to-$120 per year and 35% of residents supported incremental increases to utility bills.

According to Public Works Director and City Engineer Lance Calvert, design engineers working on the Abernethy Bridge project estimated waterline work for the West A and Sunset bridges would cost around $3.5 million, thus leading the city to propose a $17.5 million bond.

The final amount of the bond is still up to the council.

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