Scary numbers: City street repairs would cost millions
WILLMAR -- City Public Works Director Sean Christensen is calculating the cost of overdue street repairs and he said the numbers are scary. Of the 130 miles of city streets, Christensen estimates 32.5 miles need reconstruction, based on criteria ...
WILLMAR - City Public Works Director Sean Christensen is calculating the cost of overdue street repairs and he said the numbers are scary.
Of the 130 miles of city streets, Christensen estimates 32.5 miles need reconstruction, based on criteria in the Engineering Department’s pavement management plan.
Based on a rough estimate of $2 million per mile for reconstruction, that’s about $65 million.
“When I say scary numbers, the reconstruction numbers are always scary because it’s $2 million a mile based on what we’re seeing,’’ Christensen said in an interview.
The grand total could be even more, however. In 2014, the cost of street reconstruction was actually more than $2 million per mile, according to Public Works Department figures.
A reconstruction project this year on Gorton Avenue Northwest and Ninth Street Northwest cost $3.1 million per mile.
The cost of constructing the new 12th Street Southeast was $2.6 million per mile.
The cost of an overlay, which extends a street’s useful life, is much less. Overlays on five streets (which the council dropped from this year’s improvements list) would have cost nearly $367,504 per mile.
“It gives you a good idea that the fact that it is almost 7 times more money to reconstruct than it is to overlay,’’ he said.
The remainder of city streets are in good condition.
While Christensen concedes that the improvements will not happen all at once, the cost estimates will put into context the discussion that the City Council and Finance Committee will have during a Oct. 13 workshop session on the 2015 city budget and infrastructure needs.
Besides presenting various street repair estimates, Christensen said he’ll again explain the pavement management plan. He’ll also discuss the justification for the vehicle replacement program.
Councilman Steve Ahmann has floated the idea of taking some of the money for vehicle replacements and spending it on street crack-sealing and sealcoating to extend street life.
But Christensen said the bottom line is “you’ve got to maintain these streets before they get bad, not after. We’ve got to maintain the stuff we have that’s nice in order to not have to do $65 million worth of street reconstruction.’’
The topic of street repairs, along with discussion of deferred maintenance at city buildings and parks, came up during this week’s meeting of the council’s Public Works/Safety Committee.
The council has deferred spending on streets and other areas because the state cut local government aid in 2008 through 2010 and the council has not raised revenue to catch up.
Committee members debated whether or not streets were the top priority or whether streets, parks and buildings were all equally important.
Ahmann suggested the council possibly consider a maintenance assessment just for sealcoating and crack-sealing streets “so we don’t fall behind on them again.’’
He also suggested the council set aside a portion of revenue from rental of city facilities to pay for maintenance of those buildings.
Chair Ron Christianson said tax dollars are used for maintaining streets, fire and police protection and other needs. He said he didn’t know if the council has had a session on how to fund street needs.
“I bring that up for the fact that we’re looking at spending money in a lot of different places,’’ he said. “We’re going to have requests now from the park people.’’
Committee member Bruce DeBlieck said parks and buildings are part of the city’s infrastructure as well.
Christianson agreed, but asked “if it’s the parks or the street that gets you to the park that needs to be fixed?’’
“Or the buildings,’’ added committee member Audrey Nelsen.
“Streets get you to the building,’’ said Christianson. “Streets get you to the parks. Streets get people to come to Willmar to shop. It’s kind of a No. 1. If you have good streets, people will use ‘em.’’
“And go where? To a park that’s 20 years old?’’ Nelsen asked, referring to aging equipment at a number of parks. “It’s a package. It’s not just one thing.’’
Christianson said he wasn’t arguing whether or not a park is 20 years old.
“I’m just saying the streets are probably the No. 1 priority,’’ he said.
DeBlieck said he understood, but said his priorities may be different than Christianson’s.
“I think we found that out with our auditorium this last year by not paying attention to what’s going on with the buildings. It cost us a lot,’’ DeBlieck said.
Christianson said the Tribune incorrectly reported in a story Tuesday that the council is at fault for falling behind on facilities.
“I believe it read wrong that the City Council is falling behind on our facilities. It isn’t the City Council,’’ he said, but said the staff does not have a plan.
Nelsen and DeBlieck disagreed.
“We are just as guilty,’’ said Nelsen.
Christianson said he wasn’t going to argue about it.
“It’s not going to do us any good,’’ he said.