Council wants to establish process for rebuilding streets

BURTON — City council held a meeting Aug. 10 to take the first steps in establishing a mechanism that will allow the city to allocate money for repairs and reconstruction of the worst local streets.

Councilman Tom Martinbianco said the idea of the meeting was to determine how the council will spend money designated for local streets. Included in that process will be the method of funding and the prioritization of streets based on their condition.

The process is also expected to include what standard of work would need to be put into these streets, cost estimates for the work and including residents in the process to see what portion of the cost they are willing to pay and whether they want their streets paved or not.

“I think we all pretty well recognize the fact you’re not going to recreate all this all in a day,” said Martinbianco. “Much like the water and sewer projects (this can be) passed over four to five-year periods. Whatever it is going to take…if we’re going to bond for it, special assess for it – we’re going to have to do whatever we can.”

Critical to this process is the assigning of some sort of rating to local streets in Burton, he said. Currently, the state and county rank major streets with what is called a Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) system – something he said should also be done with local streets.

“This is one of the reasons I was so vehement about not doing McLaren (street) at our last meeting,” said Martinbianco, referencing the council’s decision two weeks ago to remove a plan to resurface McLaren Street from the Center Road paving project. “That was never brought up or talked about being of major concern to take care of what was obviously a local street.”

He said the process should include getting cost estimates for streets before finding out what the property owners thoughts are on the rehabilitation process. This will help, he said, to determine to what extent the city’s resources can be used to contribute to any rehab project of any local street.

Next would be determining if there are state or federal resources available to do the rehabilitation work and what, if any, percentage property owners might be asked to contribute.

“I see that we have two choices here with what we can do,” said Council President Steve Heffner. “We can either offer a program where the city pays 75 percent, and the resident pays 25 percent. Or, maybe the city pays 50 percent and the resident pays 50 percent.”

Or, he said, maybe the city takes the money it has budgeted for roads, decides how many streets it can do in a year, and designate what roads in which neighborhoods are done annually.

“I really think we need to get the residents involved; I think they have a little bit of skin in the game. We’re not forcing anything down their throats,” said Heffner. “I really think we’re going to get some response out of this once word gets out that the city is offering this.”

Smith said he liked the conversation, but he was not comfortable moving ahead with anything after no one from the administration was able tot attend the special meeting.

He said he’d prefer to see the meeting happen when the Department of Public Works director and Mayor Duane Haskins could attend. Neither were able to be at the Aug. 10 special meeting due to conflicting schedules.

“We all like what we hear, but we’re not trained in this,” said Smith. “Two, we control the checkbook, but we don’t do the bidding, we don’t do the PACER – that’s done by the administration, which we don’t have right now. We don’t know what they can and can’t do, so how do we pick which streets?”

He said while the city has money now for streets, due in part to COVID relief funds and planning, to the tune of about $1.5 million for the coming year, the council needed the input of the professionals who know more about road projects.

Council Vice President Greg Fenner said the council merely needed to decide what direction it wanted to take with a process, or mechanism by which to proceed with local road work. The input of the experts could follow later.

He said the council has more than $1.5 million budgeted for local streets and now it needed to determine how to get that money to residents by fixing some local roads.

“We may have to go door to door and tell residents what their street is rated,” said Fenner. “If they are willing and get 51 percent, we’ll pitch in this much for you.”

Heffner said he’d like to see people come into city hall, take out a petition with 51 percent of the people on their street signing it with a plan for the city to pay 75 percent and residents 25 percent for repair or reconstruction.

For dirt roads, he suggested a 50/50 splint between the city and residents, which also satisfies the administration’s goal of getting all dirt roads in the city paved eventually.

“Whatever we do, let’s be smarter,” said Councilman Danny Wells. “Let’s spend our money wisely…taxpayers’ money wisely. And make it a good fix. If those people on a dirt road want to live on a dirt road, more power to them. That’s the beauty of Burton.”

Martinbianco summed up the meeting by saying it was good the council started the conversation, giving everyone something to take home and think about before the next meeting.

“If these roads are identified by some type of PASER rating, that should lend itself to say you should focus on these roads first,” he said. “We established long-range thinking with sewer and water, should we not employ that strategy to local roads?”

The next special meeting regarding roads was set for Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. The council requested the presence of Chris Houser from the DPW at the upcoming meeting to answer questions regarding the roads.