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Council waiting for paving priorities

By Catherine Godbey
cgodbey@decaturdaily.com · 340-2441

From Boston to Los Angeles, cities across the United States hosted parties to celebrate the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

While people across the world anticipated the book’s arrival, Decatur City Council members await the release of a different document. No parties are scheduled for the unveiling of this document, even though it will affect Decatur residents.

The document producing excitement among council members is the street-paving priority list. Mark Petersohn, Engineering and Public Works director, said he evaluated the streets and ranked them based on a number of criteria, including the amount of daily traffic and the overall condition. Petersohn expects to finalize the list by Friday.

Anticipation

Members of the City Council anticipate certain street names on the list. District 2 Councilman David Bolding hopes the list includes the central roads in his district as well as less traveled ones, such as Gordon Drive.

“I’m ashamed of the conditions of our roads. All of them need repair,” Bolding said. “Most of the main arteries, like Country Club and Stratford, are in very bad shape.”

Bolding named Country Club Road, Stratford Road and Gordon Drive Southeast because of the abundance of potholes and cracks. These reasons, along with its narrow width, led Councilman Gary Hammon to list Harris Mountain Drive Southwest as the road in District 3 that possesses the most damage.

“I’ve been working to improve this road for several years,” Hammon said. “I’m so antsy to see the list. ... We need to go ahead and get it paved.”

The complaints from District 5 residents revolve around one street, Spring Avenue from Cedar Lake Road to Day Road Southwest. Construction is scheduled to widen this section next spring. Until construction begins, Councilman Ray Metzger wants the city to take steps to alleviate the potholes.

District 4 Councilman Ronny Russell hopes the Engineering Department will even out the pavement on Clearview Street between Spring Avenue and Sandlin Road Southwest. In addition to Clearview Street, Russell also said the condition of Danville Road, between Beltine Road and Carridale Street Southwest, concerns him.

According to Petersohn, however, Danville Road is not in desperate need of repair compared to other city streets. The strips of tar that produce a jolting ride for motorists prevent further damage to the street.

“The crack sealing prevents potholes from occurring,” Petersohn said. “It is a form of preventive maintenance.”

Funding limited

When Petersohn places the priority list in circulation, council members won’t see all the street names they desire. The amount of funding will limit the number of streets the city can repair.

The Engineering Department created the priority list in order to align the streets in need of the most repairs with the allotted funding. Funding for street repairs comes primarily from the state gas tax. Relying on the gas tax creates problems because of the fluctuating nature of gas prices and the number of gallons drivers buy.

“If consumption doesn’t go up,” Mayor Don Kyle said, “then revenue doesn’t go up, but the cost of repair still goes up.”

Bond issue

The City Council approved a bond issue last year to supplement the street-repair budget. Even with the bond issue, the streets in need of restoration outnumber the money available.

“We (the City Council) need to be more aggressive with our roads,” Bolding said. “We should consider matching the money we receive from the gas tax with city money. ... We need to take responsibility for the condition of our roads.”

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