The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 27, 2013

Streets to be evaluated before cash is spent

Conneaut manager responds to questions and criticism

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — City administrators expect to compile a tentative list of streets and roads that would benefit first from a street levy on the November ballot, said City Manager Tim Eggleston.

“We’re looking at rating the streets and putting a list together,” possibly with the help of the city’s engineering consultant, Eggleston said.

At issue is a five-year, 2.75-mill levy that would raise $500,000 annually for material to improve and repair city streets and secondary roads. Money would

not be applied to equipment or labor, officials have said.

Recently, some people have grumbled the city has not disclosed what thoroughfares would benefit if the levy is approved. Ward 2 Councilman Phil Garcia had questions about the levy at a meeting earlier this week.

“What’s our plan of attack?” Garcia said.

The levy is identical, except in length, to a 10-year levy defeated by less than 200 votes last year. At the time Eggleston said voters wouldn’t support a levy of that length.

Because of the levy’s defeat, all big-ticket road and street repair projects were shelved this year. The same thing will happen in 2014 if the levy fails this fall, Eggleston has said.

The levy takes the place of a .15 percent income tax hike that expired at the end of 2012 and earmarked expressly for street repairs. The income tax hike, approved by voters several years ago, was accompanied by a year-by-year outline of projects.

The city, however, quickly found it impossible to stick to the program. Some streets could get government grants that would leapfrog them ahead of others on the list, some streets needed utility line repairs that dropped them several notches.

Eggleston is concerned the same thing will happen if the city tries predict what work will happen when for the voters’ benefit.

“The last street project didn’t get a lot of the streets done that (officials) said would get done,” he said. “Basically, we have the responsibility to maintain our primary and secondary roads.”

Funding factors and the need to complete water and sewer line repairs in advance of paving can toss the best-laid repair plans out the window, Eggleston said.

“It’s difficult to call to some degree,” he said. “We want to do it correctly.”

To get the best bang for the buck, the city may try to squeeze a few additional years of life from older roads where possible while putting a strong effort into rebuilding smaller roads. Rumors have flown that the city is keen to rebuild Dorman Road between Route 20 and Interstate 90. Eggleston said the road is vital, since it serves as a back door to schools on Gateway Avenue, but a complete overhaul would be costly.

“It’s a heavily traveled road and we do get complaints on its condition, but it would be an expensive road to do,” he said. “We would have to do it in stages, possibly with the help of grants.”

One street that would be high on the list is Williams Street, which is in poor condition, councilmen said this week.