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Street failure challenges 2017 budget priorities

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Photo by Hank Lohmeyer A large section of pavement on SW 3rd Avenue failed completely last week and will require complete rebuilding, the public works manager told trustees at their Jan. 19 meeting.

Cedaredge town trustees learned at their Jan. 19 business meeting that a section of town pavement "has been completely destroyed." The culprit causing the failure of a 70"x20' section of pavement on SW 3rd Avenue is ground water.

The failure points up town budget decisions that have long delayed the allocation of available resources to town street maintenance.

A big section of the pavement "just popped out" last Thursday afternoon, reported public works co-director Scott Lock at the town board meeting. He said the section would require a complete rebuilding and called the reoccurring ground water problems "pretty severe issues."

Another sign of deteriorating town streets and a "huge concern" for public works that Lock mentioned are the "alligator cracks" seen in many town streets. The alligator cracking sends a network of interlaced cracks through the pavement surface and allow water to seep through destroying the road base. When that happens, an expensive road rebuild is required. Lock reminded trustees that the issue was discussed during budget hearings that began last August.

At the August budget hearing, Mayor Gene Welch and trustee Larry Smith, along with the public works directors, advocated strongly for increased spending on asphalt maintenance. As reported at the time, Welch said that the poor condition of town streets is the source of many complaints he gets. "You have to let people in town know you are working on this issue," Welch said.

Public works co-directors Jerry Young and Lock asked for $110,000 during 2017 for maintaining asphalt on town streets. Young noted that their line item funding request for asphalt maintenance is the first one cut every year during budget hearings. There were zero dollars in the 2016 budget for new asphalt.

The 2017 budget for asphalt maintenance in the entire town was initially increased to the requested $110,000. But a month later, in light of spending requests by department heads, it was cut once again and set at $60,000; an amount less than was spent on an equipment loan for grounds maintenance and mowing grass at the golf course in 2016.

A mile of two-inch thick asphalt overlay costs $117,000, it was stated. But when maintenance is neglected and roads fail completely as the pavement on SW 3rd Avenue did last week, the cost of rebuilding them is $1 million per mile, said Lock at the August budget hearing.

Town Administrator Katie Sickles said at the time that asphalt maintenance would compete with a budgeted $66,000 payment to Region 10 for installing broadband fiber, a service that DMEA is offering at far less cost. "We've never been able to afford [asphalt maintenance]," Sickles said. "Revenues in transportation are pretty slim."

Welch replied, "We can't afford not to afford [street maintenance]. If it was [a choice between] streets or broadband, I know the answer. We can't not budget for [streets]."

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Cedaredge, roads
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