The Junction City Commission discussed Blue Jay Way — a street associated with the new Junction City High School — at its Tuesday night meeting.
The city discussed helping to pay for the new road — at this time a gravel road — which will be heavily used when the new high school opens for business next school year.
The city, if it chooses to pay to help with paving the road, will pay about $2 million for the project.
City Manager Allen Dinkel said the city has been interested in helping with this project from early on.
“From the get-go I think the city has always taken the attitude that whole mile of Blue Jay Way needs to be developed,” he said. “We’ve been on that ever since the high school was voted upon, because of safety and everything else.”
Not paving the road, Dinkel said, could cause wrecks and could lead to high levels of traffic going through a residential area to avoid using the unpaved Blue Jay Way.
The city had applied for grant assistance on the project, but did not receive the funds.
Commissioner Tim Brown expressed displeasure with the possible expenditure and suggested having a special election. He agreed with Dinkel’s assessment that the road needed paving for safety’s sake, but was unhappy with the prospect of the city having to pay $2 million for the project.
“The big selling point of this school when it came out was that it wasn’t going to cost the taxpayers of Junction City a lot of extra money,” Brown said.
He was concerned with the prospect of the city taking on any more debt.
“I am against getting $2 million more debt on this city at this point right now,” Brown said. “If we do want to do this, let’s have a special election — $20,000 will spend (on) a special election — and let the people vote on it."
Commissioner Ronna Larson feels because the road is gravel at this time, it is not safe for young drivers or anyone who is not accustomed to driving on gravel.
“Just with the gravel roads and then young drivers driving through a residential area and you have kids walking to and from school and having someone get hit and killed or have an accident and somebody rolls,” she said. “I’m from a rural area. Gravel roads (are) not always a fun thing to drive on if you’re not used to it. And you can come up onto it and forget that you’re coming up to gravel and not slow down. So safety of life is more important to me, at this point in time."
Larson suggested the county or the school district might help pay for the project.
Brown said he expressed doubt the school district or the county would be able or willing to contribute to the project.
“The only way to do it is going to be a grant, probably,” he said. “Otherwise it’s going to be all on us."
Vice Mayor Pat Landes agreed with her assessment and said the city could pay to pave the road using its normal street budget, without any kind of special expenses.
“I don’t think we need a special election at all,” he said. “I think we have plenty of funds that we put into streets each year and we can take a piece of that to do this. This street continuation to Rucker Road is vitally important, without question.”
Landes said he felt there was no argument.
“I’ve been looking into this for three or four years,” he said. “It has to be done. Is the county going to help? No. Is the school district going to help? They’re not going to do it beyond their border. So it’s on us … we’re going to have to finance it, but we can pay for it through our existing street maintenance budget this year.”
Landes suggested the city could use some of the extra revenue gained from people shopping online and shopping local — which it has received because COVID-19 has kept shoppers closer to home — to help with the expenses. He said again that he felt the funds were already available in the regular street budget and that an increase in taxes would not be necessary for the project.
No action was taken after the discussion.