Weatherford Democrat

July 25, 2013

Increase in streets spending needed, council told


CNHI News Service

GILBERTON, Pa. — By BRIAN SMITH



Keeping Weatherford streets in “good” shape will require more money than is presently being spent, a street expert told city council members Tuesday night.

Steven Smith, president of Infrastructure Management Services, spoke about a recent report his company did after laser testing and driving every city street. The city received an overall score of 66 on a scale of 1-to-100, which placed it in the “good” range. It was the same score the city received in a similar survey in 2006, Smith said.

Maintaining the status quo on streets isn’t such a bad thing, Smith said, but it could lead to further problems.

“Many cities slip from one test to the next but you didn’t, considering you went from 150 to 170 miles of roads in those seven years,” Smith said. “Your backlog of streets (those in poor or very poor condition) also dropped from 18 percent to 15 percent.”

While working on the poor or very poor streets would seem to be the prudent thing to do, Smith said it’s not the most financially savvy option.

“Those poor to very poor streets aren’t going to get any worse but good roads have a tendency to deteriorate quicker, so you want to spend the money on those to ensure they don’t fall into poor or very poor status,” Smith said. “You want to preserve the fabric of the network.”

Not maintaining the fabric will cause the number of streets in backlog to increase. Once the number approaches 20 percent, it is almost impossible to get caught back up, Smith said.

The city spends approximately $663,000 a year on materials presently to maintain the streets. Smith said that number needs to increase to about $1.4 million simply to maintain the status quo. Without it, the city’s overall score is expected to drop by about two points a year.

“That doesn’t seem like much but over time, you begin to lose ground,” Smith said. “Maintaining the status quo only defers the inevitable of having to completely rebuild the streets.”

If the city was able to spend more than $1.4 million, the poor and very poor streets could be worked on, Smith said. Securing long-term funding for the streets is imperative, Smith said. City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said the city was spending around $1 million on streets before cutbacks about five years ago.

Resident Bobbie Narramore said city streets are like a “face of the community” and need to be maintained. Council members praised the work of Public Works Director Manny Palacios and his workers for the job they have done in tough economic times.

Palacios later in the meeting gave an update on street rehabilitation projects over the past year. Council members will have their first look at the Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget at the council’s next meeting Aug. 6.