By MARK TODD - firstname.lastname@example.org
CONNEAUT — Repairs to a road grader critical to the upkeep of Conneaut's secondary roads won't be as costly as believed and could begin within two weeks, City Manager Tim Eggleston told a crowd of residents unhappy about road maintenance at Monday's City Council meeting.
The grader is out of service because of engine problems. Another look at an earlier quote for repairs showed a way to trim the cost for a new engine by $5,000, bringing the final bill to around $20,000, Eggleston said. A new engine, to be installed by city workers, could arrive by the end of the month, he said.
With the grader sidelined, Conneaut's Public Works Department has no effective way to knock down the potholes that have been a driving nightmare along sections of many unpaved roads.
“Once (the grader) gets rolling, we'll be in great shape,” Eggleston said.
A handful of residents told council something needs to be done immediately. Herb Kelly of Horton Road said family members don't visit his home because of the poor roads. He wondered if asphalt grinding from the Interstate 90 improvement project now under way in Conneaut could be secured and used on the roads.
Barring that, the city must improve its maintenance procedures, Kelly said.
“You've got to put a crown back on the road,” he said. “You've got to do things right.”
Carol Tinney of South Ridge Road said her road veers between “mud hole and dust bowl,” depending on the time of year. “We live on the worst road I have ever traveled,” she said.
George Hogle of Underridge Road said residents seemingly make an “annual excursion” to City Hall this time of year to seek help for the roads. He was also “embarrassed” for the city when the post office last week needed upgrades to Underridge before mail could be delivered. No deliveries were skipped, Postal Service officials said.
Joe Polchosky said the quality of work on the roads doesn't merit support of a road levy. Eggleston has said the narrow defeat of a 10-year street/road levy in November has hurt the city's ability to make repairs.
Spring comes every year and yet the Public Works Department was not ready to respond, Polchosky said. “It's not right not to be ready for this,” he said.
Council also expressed its unhappiness regarding road conditions. Ward 2 Councilman Phil Garcia asked if the city has a plan it follows for road repair and wants weekly updates. He also urged the city to confer with other agencies on road maintenance ideas.
Ward 1 Councilman Doug Hedrick said the roads as they exist now are “unacceptable.” Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch took it a step further, apologizing to the crowd.
“The roads out there are an embarrassment,” he said. “There are citizens who are grading roads themselves.”
LaRusch said he believes technique, not funding, may be the problem. “It's obviously not about money but procedure,” he said.
There was one bit of good news for some of the affected residents. LaRusch has apparently shelved for now his effort to eliminate a popular exemption to the city's $2 monthly street lighting. Landowners whose property is 500 feet or more from a street light, and more than 150 landowners sought out and received the exemption.
Last week LaRusch said he would make a motion doing away with the exemption at Monday's meeting. Asked after the meeting why he didn't make the motion, LaRusch said, “Let's talk about fixing our roads first.”