Corrections & Clarifications: This story was updated to correct the list of road projects that will be covered in the bond.
Salem voters are on track to approve a $300 million bond measure to improve the city’s streets, sidewalks, parks, libraries and bridges, according to early election results.
Although some ballots are still being counted, results showed a sizeable lead in both Marion and Polk counties.
The bond came up for a vote just as previous bond measures retire and are removed from the tax rolls — meaning the new bond will not increase residents’ tax rates.
The bond rate would remain at $1.20 per $1,000 of assessed value. Over the life of the bond, this means the average household in Salem would pay about $134 a year.
The bond will fund $157 million for sidewalks and streets, $7.5 million for branch libraries, $10 million for affordable housing, $28.4 million for park upgrades, $14 million for fire stations, $26 million for engines or equipment, $39.4 million for upgrades to the Salem Civic Center and $17.6 million for technology upgrades and security.
The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, Salem city councilors and Mayor Chris Hoy campaigned in support of the measure. No formal opposition formed against it.
Wednesday morning, the city declared victory on the bond measure passing.
“As Salem’s new mayor, I can’t think of a better way to start my first term than with a significant investment in the infrastructure of our community,” Hoy said. “It shows we have a shared vision for our future and I’m glad to be part of it. This is a great day for Salem.”
In the weeks leading up to the election, Hoy said the range of support — from the Chamber of Commerce to grassroots environmental group 350 Salem OR — spoke to its mass appeal and benefit to the community.
“Over the next 10 years, we’ll see better streets, sidewalks and bike lanes, safer playgrounds at our parks, a better prepared and more reliable emergency response, a safer City Hall and secure information infrastructure,” Hoy said. “We will see tangible results of the community coming together.”
$157 million for sidewalks and streets
More than half of the funds will be set aside for repairing and adding sidewalks and streets in addition to fixing and incorporating more traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and bike lanes.
Projects coraled into the $157 million for sidewalks and streets include:
- Improvements to McGilchrist Street SE, Doaks Ferry Road NW and Fischer Road NE.
- A Pringle Creek Path for cyclists and pedestrians connecting the Salem Civic Center to Riverfront Park.
- Constructing Marine Drive in West Salem.
$7.5 million for branch libraries, $10 million for affordable housing
Funds from the bond would be used to acquire properties and begin the development of two branch libraries on the same site as affordable housing complexes.
The branches would be in addition to the Salem Public Library’s main branch in downtown Salem, which reopened last year following seismic upgrades and renovations.
The $10 million for the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund would be used to provide gap funding to public and private developers to build affordable housing.
$28.4 million for park upgrades
City officials said Salem’s well-used park system needs upgrades.
Replacing restrooms at Marion Square and Wallace Marine parks and developing new trails, covered areas, playgrounds, splash pads, pickleball courts and dog parks are among the projects highlighted.
Playground equipment will be replaced at Royal Oaks, Livingston, McKay, Morningside, Aldrich, Riverfront, Woodmansee, Brush College, Minto Brown Island and Clark Creek parks.
$14 million for fire stations; $26 million for engines, equipment
Fire officials said more stations and staff are needed to provide timely responses during fires, crashes and medical emergencies.
With the bond, $14 million would be used to buy property and construct two new fire stations.
Salem’s fire engines, purchased with 2006 bond funds, are 15 years old and have already reached the threshold of “motor hours” equivalent to 450,000 road miles, according to city officials.
The funds would replace 17 engines and three ladder trucks, replace rescue tools like the “jaws of life” and defibrillators, two medic units, four battalion vehicles and other vehicles for needs specific to heavy rescue, medium rescue, airfield rescue and firefighting, air support, and wildland grass fire.
$39.4 million for Civic Center; $17.6 million for tech
The Civic Center, which houses City Council chambers, municipal court and many city offices, was built 50 years ago. The city’s most visited public building needs seismic upgrades to ensure safety and public accessibility, city officials said.
The funding would reinforce all three buildings to a life-safety standard and allow for a “higher probability of a safe exit during an earthquake.”
The funding would replace out-of-date financial reporting and accounting systems, as well as provide for a second data center for recovery after a disaster and a redundant fiber ring for resiliency.
To maintain a steady tax rate, there will be three bond issuances during a 10-year period, city officials said.
One is scheduled in 2023, then again in 2026, and finally 2029.
The purpose of issuing the bonds in multiple segments will allow:
- The estimated level levy rate of no more than $1.20 / $1,000.
- Projects to be completed in accordance with spend-down requirements. These requirements dictate how much money needs to be spent in a certain amount of time to ensure jurisdictions are spending funds in a timely manner.
- The fire equipment purchase to be taken care of as soon as funds are available.
- Staff to have the capacity to work on new projects in conjunction with current projects.
- Adjustments depending on the bond market and interest rates over the course of the 10-year period.
- For the accommodation of the complexity of some street and sidewalk projects. Some projects need to be staged over multiple years to allow time for design, potential right-of-way acquisition, and preconstruction work.
Reporter Whitney Woodworth covers city hall, economic development and business for the Statesman Journal. For questions, comments and news tips, email email@example.com, call 503-910-6616 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth.