It appears Tucsonans will have a hand in deciding the fate of their dilapidated streets this November.
On Tuesday, the City Council voted 6-1 to put a $100 million bond proposal for road improvements on the November ballot.
As proposed, the bonds would be issued in $20 million increments annually for five years, and would cost a property owner with a home assessed at $100,000 around $18 a year in additional tax.
The vote capped months of debate, public hearings, surveys and staff reports on the best way to fix Tucson's streets since state money has been cut over the years and city revenues have remained stagnant.
Councilman Richard Fimbres opposed the bond election, saying the bond is ill-timed and a waste of $350,000 of taxpayer money to pay for the election, since it is doomed to failure.
"In 2010, the voters of Tucson had before them a proposed half-cent sales-tax (increase)," Fimbres said over a telephone hookup because he was out of town. "This proposal was soundly rejected by more than 60 percent of the voters."
Councilman Paul Cunningham is also out of town and attended by telephone.
Fimbres complained that the bond plan was foisted on the council without a thorough vetting of alternatives such as neighborhood improvement districts or street maintenance fees.
When different options were discussed at the May 8 meeting, "there (was) no follow-up on this," he said. "When I posed the follow-up questions to staff on this, I had received conflicting answers."
Councilman Steve Kozachik said Fimbres' concerns were valid, but he believes citizens will support the measure.
"I am hearing loudly and clearly from constituents that we are way behind the curve in fixing our infrastructure," Kozachik said. "I think the fair thing to do is let the voters decide. If they tell us no, then we are back at the table again."
Student housing a go
In other news, the council voted unanimously to approve construction of the Plaza Centro student housing project.
After fights over parking spaces and single-source bids for architects stalled the project for more than three years, construction will now start within the week on a six-story tower east of the Rialto Theatre and a three-story tower on top of the Centro Garage, which will bring 460 students and 20,000 square feet of retail space to the east side of downtown.
Developer Jim Campbell said, "For us it's been a long road and difficult times to get here, but we are excited to have the city and the University of Arizona as partners to make this thing happen."
Under the agreement, the developer will pay the city nearly $2.1 million for the two parcels, but the city will only net about $1.6 million after paying about $400,000 for infrastructure improvements to assist the project and providing $100,000 to the nearby Skrappy's youth center.
Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4243.