An "alarming" need for Palo Alto to finance $455 million of overdue infrastructure maintenance in the next 20 years was tossed to the city staff Monday night by the City Council.
The council asked staff to recommend ways to tackle the huge backlog of work outlined in a recent study by the Kitchell Corporation, hired to assess the condition of the city's physical infrastructure.
Although Palo Alto is not unique, it has more and older facilities for its size than many other communities, Assistant Public Works Director Mike Sartor told the council. A recent consultant's report also recommended the city hire four additional maintenance employees to care for the city's many buildings, parks, roads and other properties.
The council's four-member Finance Committee discussed the challenge March 18, but decided it was so important the entire council should discuss it.
"We have to at some point address these in a systematic way," Councilman Jack Morton said. "Right now it's just a nebulous need out there, but we need to begin to prioritize. We need to begin to schedule ... and actually fund some of this."
"It's nothing short of alarming," Councilman Sid Espinosa said, although he said he didn't think a 20-year time frame was realistic because of the amount of change in that period.
He said he is surprised the city only is focused on maintenance and "not planning for things that are visionary."
The need is so great the city doesn't have the resources or the ability to generate new money to do much other than focus on maintenance, City Manager Frank Benest said.
Mayor Larry Klein said the city isn't likely to devote the $20 million per year — out of its $140 million budget — necessary to keep pace with the infrastructure need.
"I don't know where we're going with this other than to face that it's a huge problem," he said. "I think as a community we're going to face some very tough decisions."