PORTLAND, Ore. - It's hot work in hot weather, but a private paving crew has been working on part of Portland's Southwest 34th Avenue near Arrowood Drive. The contractor was hired by most of the property owners along the street.
"I'm really happy with this," said Sue Strater, as she inspected the finished product. "We're already getting feedback from neighbors that they're really liking it."
Strater and her neighbors live on a street that was built without sidewalks and gutters. Portland inherited the street as city boundaries grew over the years. But because the street wasn't built to city codes, property owners have always been responsible for maintaining it. The city would only take over maintenance if a majority of neighbors voted to implement a Local Improvement District, or LID. If approved, all property owners would share in the cost of bringing the street up to code. After that, the city would be responsible for routine maintenance.
But it's an expensive option.
"Over $50,000 per home," said Strater. "We cannot afford that."
But Strater and her neighbors were desperate to repair a road that had fallen into disrepair. They decided to pitch in to pay for a smaller project themselves. Strater asked all neighbors to help out, including the city. Portland owns two pieces of property along the street.
“They're a property owner,” said Strater. “They should be contributing and participating with us like any other neighbor.”
Property owners are only responsible for the piece of road that sits directly in front of their property. Despite the city, and a few other owners, refusing to pitch in, Strater and her neighbors decided to patch up many of the problem areas on Southwest 34th Avenue. One of those spots was right in front of a piece of land owned by the Portland Water Bureau.
"It was just so crumbly and had so many holes," said Strater. "You kind of had to dodge and weave through. It was a safety issue at this point."
Much of the patching work is now complete. Late on Wednesday afternoon, the Portland Water Bureau sent KATU the following statement explaining why it didn't help with the project.
"The Portland Water Bureau owns but rarely accesses two pieces of property on this street. The pump station on one piece of land is out of service and PWB no longer operates it. The second property is used by a cell service provider for a cell tower. As a property owner on this street, PWB would gladly join with other property owners in funding an LID but cannot pay neighbors directly for a private upgrade. The City of Portland must comply with the state contractor rules to ensure that we protect the integrity of our spending. As good neighbors, PWB will evaluate the quality of the street in front of these properties and in the future, make arrangements with the Portland Bureau of Transportation about routine maintenance."
Strater just wishes they had been clearer about that sooner.
"It would have been nice if the water bureau had communicated that they could have the Portland Bureau of Transportation maintain their section of road," Strater wrote in an email to KATU News. "We could have excluded that in our bidding process. It would have saved us $."