Council members hear recommendations for selecting streets to repair

By Karen Cornelius

The Streets, Buildings, and Grounds Committee met on Monday night, July 10. Streets chairman Jim Forthofer presented a power point on streets project planning, a hopefully better way of selecting streets than what has currently been used.


Recommendations include council members contributing to a new data gathering document, and agreeing to schedule the selection process to begin in November with the final decisions no later than January. Currently, the engineer recommends streets in February, council discusses them in February or March, the engineer draws specs, and the mayor gets the bids in June. Work is done in the summer with projects often running into back-to-school. The bids often go to construction companies after many of their work schedules for the year are already done.


Councilman Forthofer stated that he worked with councilman Frank Loucka, service director Tony Valerius, and city engineer Lynn Miggins on how to better select streets for repaving with very little money. He said council gave them permission to look into a streets rubric based on the suggestion of Neal Norris who attended a committee meeting earlier in the year. Forthofer said while the city does have data, the trick is putting it in the right place. While they have records, there is no scientific selection or follow-up device on choosing streets. He said currently there is no past and future activity consolidated. There is no formal process for submitting distressed streets, and no rollover of unchosen projects.


Forthofer stated that finance director Brian Keller took the initiative to create a general document for gathering distressed street nominations from council ward members with the help from Miggins. Council members would enter the basic condition analysis of their nominated streets. The city engineer would apply an in-depth analysis of select streets and the costs. Basic conditions could include potholes, cracking, base failure, car travel per week, homes on the road, major repair, and community image. He said this is the basis around which the flow or process begins. All the selection work would shift to earlier months to get projects going earlier.


The recommendation is to have each ward member select three streets and then have the top streets in each ward assessed by the engineer with project costs assigned. Unchosen streets become the basis for next year’s streets list. The proposed document would be a consolidation of past street projects and current nominations. This record can grow year to year as past and future activity accumulates.


Forthofer said there are many benefits to this proposed data gathering and planning. All the historic and future streets information would be in one place. The nominations would require analytical consideration. There would be a long financial view when making choices, and there could be work sessions to make better decisions. He said next year’s process would begin with the memory of the previous street nominations. Early bidding would get more responses, and construction could occur during the summer. Selection would be based on facts and what the city could afford. No one would be starting from scratch every year.


Councilman Loucka stressed this selection process is a work in progress, a suggestion, a beginning matrix. He said the city needs better planning and they are looking for major repairs, not potholes. Council-at-large Monica Stark said she loves the idea of earlier planning. However, she doesn’t want to promise a road will definitely be done if it’s rolled over to another year. She said costs could change or something unexpected could come up needing immediate repair.


Councilwoamn Barb Brady said they need to add maintenance to the plan. She said some roads could be made better without spending a million. “We should integrate maintenance,” said Brady. Forthofer agreed and said that could be the next process. Councilman Fred Ostrander said they also should consider proper drainage as a criteria for selection. He pointed out that at the end of a year, the entire council could change and they might be tying new people’s hands with an early January deadline. Forthofer responded that at least any new council person would have the data to consider and would know what went on before his or her term started.


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