Tempe is considering a $10.5 million bond election this November to help fund the replacement of the rubber dams at Tempe Town Lake.
The City Council will move toward having the election even as it recognizes the lake needs other improvements whose costs are unknown — and that Tempe may identify other funds that make the bond unnecessary.
Tempe estimates it needs $37.5 million to replace the four rubber bladders on the lake’s west end by December 2015. That’s $4 million more than a previous estimate.
The city has until July to call the election. Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said the city needs to have the bond package as an option even as it explores grants or raising funds by selling or leasing property near the lake.
It’s possible the city won’t need to issue the bonds, but he said Tempe has to have funding lined up just in case.
“We can’t know any of that up front, so we’ve got to keep moving on a number of different options to make sure that we don’t end up with an empty, stinky, fish-invested town mud hole,” Hallman said.
One of four rubber bladders burst in July 2010, emptying the nearly 1 billion-gallon lake within hours. A contractor was one day away from starting to replace the bladders at the time. Tempe had determined the rubber dams were aging much faster than expected because of the Valley’s intense sun. The city has until December 2015 to replace the dams with four hydraulically operated steel hinged gates, under an agreement Bridgestone Inc.
Tempe has been researching funding options for months. It has $20.9 million in existing bond authorization and $4 million in cash.
The city is also studying replacement options for rubber bladders on the lake’s east side but it hasn’t identified a cost-effective solution, Assistant City Manager Jeff Kulaga said. Tempe is studying whether it can eliminate the need for east-end bladders by modifying an existing concrete structure in the riverbed that’s east of the dam.
And the city is researching a bypass pipe to pump upstream water from entering the lake because that flow decreases water quality. The cost was recently estimated at $10 million, which has spurred officials to look at cheaper options.
The City Council will revisit the bond election on June 14 and likely decide on June 28 whether the item will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
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