City plan addresses 'debacle'

One-way streets seen as way to ease congestion on Diamond, Yavapai

KINGMAN - One of the 11 long-term projects recommended for immediate attention by city staff is to possibly widen Eastern Avenue to three lanes from Pasadena to Kenwood.

The approximately $2 million project, which the Public Works director rounded up by $400,000 from last year's outline, was originally planned to include the extension of North Lomalai from Kenwood Avenue to Airway and a traffic signal at what would then be an intersection at Lomalai and Airway.

The city instead chose to follow through with a short-term fix to what has become known as the Diamond Street Debacle - the traffic surge on Diamond Street resulting from more and more commuters using it as a connector between Eastern and Airway avenues. This "debacle" is a result of Louise Avenue closing in September.

While the long-term fix of possibly extending Lomalai is still in the works, the city currently plans to make Diamond and North Yavapai one-way streets. This project is expected to cost the city $70,000.

This year's 111-page Capital Improvement Plan report budgeted the project at $3.2 million, but because the city doesn't own the land for the proposed extension of Lomalai to Airway, city staff eliminated costs that would have included land acquisition, the traffic signal and a paved street extension.

"I don't want to put something in the CIP we don't own," Public Works Director Jack Kramer said in a phone interview Friday. "We can always add it later."

The Eastern improvements, Kramer said, will be an easy fix because the city already owns the land and the space exists on the edges of the current street to widen it without interference.

The mayor and several Council members have expressed a need to address the two most significant concerns of residents: traffic and shopping. Councilman Kerry Deering made the point during a February CIP meeting that the city would not likely back multi-million dollar bonds if none of the projects paid for by these bonds addressed traffic concerns.

Eastern is one of three out of 11 projects prioritized by City Manager Paul Beecher and his staff. The other two include the $4 million widening of Gordon Avenue and improvements to Southern Avenue from Eastern to Seneca Street, budgeted at $1.1 million. Council members added several projects to the staff's list for prioritization, including North Glen Road improvements, budgeted at $2.41 million; widening Stockton Hill Road for $16.7 million; adding a railroad crossing at Airfield Avenue for $4.425 million; widening Airway Avenue to Western Avenue for $712,000, and several others.

Nothing has been finalized. Council will vote on how much of the bonding capacity it wants to capitalize on before sending the proposals to the public for a vote in November.

For the first time, the city has an approximately $40 million cap on available bonds, which allows it to issue a much larger amount of debt for long-term improvements. By property owners paying a higher yearly tax for these bonds, the city would have the funding to address traffic and other priorities dealing with services.

Although the city does not generally receive a property tax (it funds K-12 education and the community college; the rest goes to the county), payments for bonds is made through an increase in property tax.

Residents are currently paying $22 this year for debt issued by a 1994 bond on the Airway Avenue reconstruction project. When it began, residents paid $64 the first year to improve Airway from Stockton Hill Road to Bank Street. It has fallen to $22 this year for homeowners whose houses are worth $100,000, which is a base value. For houses worth more or less than $100,000, yearly property taxes designated by the bond payments reflect that. Three years remain on the 1994 debt, according to city Finance Director, Coral Loyd.