Healdsburg City Council members Tuesday reaffirmed their intent to fix up a historic Russian River bridge even though funding for the project remains uncertain.
Just when city officials had convinced skeptical federal highway engineers to approve a $12 million rehabilitation of the 90-year-old Healdsburg Memorial Bridge, a court decision last week erased more than $1 million in redevelopment money anticipated for the project.
A state Supreme Court decision that upheld the state's right to dissolve redevelopment agencies means the city can no longer count on using redevelopment money toward its required 12 percent share of the cost.
"I don't want to in any way inhibit the project from moving forward," said City Councilman Jim Wood, echoing the sentiments of his colleagues. But he said he shuddered at the thought of how the city will come up with the $1.4 million it needs for its share of a seismic retrofit and other upgrades for the rusted, but beloved, 90-year-old span.
Despite the cloudy funding outlook, council members agreed Tuesday to maintain the bridge in the future through a variety of potential sources, whether setting aside gas tax revenues, seeking a potential parcel tax increase or tapping into a community benefit fund.
But there is competition for the gas tax funds, which are intended for street maintenance. A parcel tax increase would have to be approved by two-thirds of voters. And council members were hesitant to commit the $600,000 in community benefit money that has been used in the past to fund nonprofit groups and subsidize sewer bills of low-income residents.
As a condition for funding the retrofit of the bridge, federal highway officials insisted the city commit to maintaining it indefinitely.
"We need to put our best foot forward," Mayor Gary Plass said of the city's need to spell out where the money will come from. He warned against "trying to bluff the feds" with vague commitments toward maintenance of the bridge in the future.
Public Works Director Mike Kirn estimated it will cost $134,000 annually to maintain the bridge over the next six decades, without taking inflation into account.
But he was challenged by Mel Amato, a Healdsburg resident who has rallied to save the bridge. Amato said the cost was less than half that, or about $63,000 annually because things such as painting the bridge qualify for future rehabilitation, rather than ongoing maintenance.