Decatur has more than $3 million in paving needs, but the usual funding source isn’t enough to pay for these needs, city officials said.
The city fell behind in street repairs when it had to postpone its annual paving plans during the recession years of 2008 and 2009.
Some streets, including Carridale Street Southwest, Davis Street Northwest and Cedar Lake Road Southwest, are crumbling to the point that they could become major problems with another harsh winter, city officials said.
City Council President Gary Hammon said he would like to pave all 45 streets — including 25 listed as high priority with major problems — identified by the Engineering Division. However, the city receives only about $400,000 annually in gas and oil tax revenues, a fund designated for road repairs.
“We’re behind, and we won’t catch up if we depend only on the gas and oil tax,” Hammon said.
Hammon suggested the City Council seek a $2.2 million loan, but city financial supervisor Charlene Brueggeman warned Decatur has other expenses to consider.
“We’ve been spending money like crazy lately, and there’s only so much to go around,” Brueggeman said.
The City Council went to the bond market last week for almost $21 million to pay for road projects, a sewer extension and the city’s $2 million share of the Morgan County Jail addition.
The city also has a new vehicle replacement program for police, fire and sanitation.
Brueggeman said the city won’t know how much a new sales and use tax on the police jurisdiction will produce until late summer. The tax that went into effect April 1 has been projected to generate $1.2 million for fiscal 2016.
Councilman Chuck Ard said the city also should be aware of increasing health insurance costs.
Councilman Charles Kirby said he doubts the city will be able to address all of the identified roads in only a year or two.
“I think a lot of this is political posturing in an election year,” Kirby said. “It will eventually get done, but it will take time because our revenues are flat.”
Councilman Billy Jackson said the city needs to figure out how to pay for the repaving without seeking financing.
Ard said a major issue that isn’t included is the need to improve the roads around the new Austin High School, which is under construction on Modaus Road in Southwest Decatur.
The need for the Austin road improvements competes with Hammon’s desire to build a road for a proposed new elementary school in the Burningtree area, and Hammon said a Burningtree road should take priority.
“Which school doesn’t have a road?” Hammon said. “I graduated from Austin in 1974, and it didn’t have a four-lane road until 1984. It operated just fine on two-lane roads.”
Hammon insists Burningtree needs an elementary school to promote development, even though school officials have not committed to the pro-ject.
Kirby said he doesn’t subscribe to the “build it and they will come” theory behind the Burningtree school pro-ject. He said the priority, at least in the short term, should be improving the roads around the new Austin school.
“We don’t want our citizens going to schools on roads that aren’t comfortable and safe,” Kirby said.
The council agreed to let Brueggeman and Mayor Don Kyle come up with a financial plan for the repaving.