The mayor and town trustees zeroed in on street maintenance as a priority for allocating available 2017 budget funds during a work session on Aug. 18.
Mayor Gene 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 Scott Lock are asking for $110,000 next year for maintaining asphalt on town streets. There were zero dollars in the 2016 budget for new asphalt. Young noted that their line item funding request is the first one cut every year during budget hearings.
A mile of asphalt overlay costs $117,000, it was stated. But when maintenance is neglected and roads fail completely, the cost of rebuilding them is $1 million per mile, said Lock.
Town administrator Katie Sickles said 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]."
Sickles said that she would keep the $110,000 for asphalt maintenance in the budget; but she told the town board members that they would have to be the ones to identify and prioritize which streets will be fixed first.
Allocating available budget funds for town streets came up in another part of the work session. Trustee Larry Smith suggested that $100,000 in town money currently earmarked for beautification might be better spent maintaining the town's deteriorating streets.
Smith noted in particular that the enhancement project at the intersection of Main Street and Grand Mesa Drive has dragged on in administrative and bureaucratic gridlock "for four or five years." There is still no date set for construction.
The enhancement project was conceived as a partnership with CDOT. Cedaredge has budgeted $100,000 for its share of the plan. It was to be an eye-catching streetscape to entice passersby traveling along Highway 65 to turn at the intersection and spend money at Main Street businesses.
Trustee Al Smith said that "maybe we're kidding ourselves" thinking the project would live up to its economic development justification. Welch added, "But it will look pretty."
CDOT has already helped fund one beautification enhancement project in Cedaredge across from Pioneer Town. The enhancement project at Main Street was supposed to have been completed with the Main Street improvements project several years ago. Since that time, Sickles has complained regularly at town board meetings about CDOT foot dragging on the project. CDOT has also gotten the blame for a right-of-way legal problem that has cut the enhancement project's scope in half limiting it to just one side of the Highway 65 intersection.
Money from the town's last tax increase for streets will be allocated at the rate of almost $60,000 per year paying off Main Street improvements for at least another six years. "It is tempting," Smith said, "to ax the enhancement project" and use $100,000 budgeted for other street projects.
Sickles advocated strongly for moving the uncompleted enhancement project ahead once again into the 2017 budget year.
Sickles announced that a consultant will address a meeting to discuss the issue on Sept. 8. The consultant is offering to straighten out the legal and bureaucratic entanglements for an additional fee of $37,000.
The issue of budgeting for beautification or for nuts-and-bolts infrastructure was a recurring theme at the budget meeting. During a discussion about parks, Sickles noted that downtown flowers get a lot of citizen compliments.
Two accidents involving school property are proving costly for Delta County Joint School District, district business manager Jim Ventrello reported last week. Both incidents involved uninsured drivers, forcing the school district to file claims with its insurance provider and pay deductibles of $10,000.