Street maintenance in Taylor has a new course but some limitations dictated by revenue.
On Jan. 28, the Taylor City Council approved to move forward with a street maintenance program. The program will continue for two years before being re-evaluated.
“What we would like to do for the next two years is spend $225,000 for the level up program each year,” said Jim Gray, public works director, “and not do a mill and overlay this year and then ($450,000) next year hoping to get the lower price for the economy of scale and hopefully, … we get that smaller price again with the larger project.”
The staff’s recommendations were approved as presented.
“It’s a great way to make that money go and stretch it as far as we can get it,” said Councilmember Mitch Drummond. “The level up, while it’s not a perfect fix, it makes a huge difference on our streets.”
Councilmember Dwayne Ariola suggested making a map of the street maintenance projects easily available to the public.
“Let’s get the word out on what previous councils have done,” said Ariola, “and what the game plan is for the future with our streets.”
Councilmember Robert Garcia wanted to make sure that streets other than main roads are addressed.
“When we do these level ups, let’s just make sure we’re not focusing on the feeder roads,” said Garcia. “We’re actually getting some of those tight-knit communities that we don’t see everyday, and helping some of their streets get better.”
“Our liabilities exceed our wealth”
Ahead of the program’s approval Jan. 27, the council participated in a workshop on the economics of street maintenance.
“What can we afford to do in terms of street maintenance long term,” said Tom Yantis, development services director, “and what kind of direction will (the council) give us as we move forward as we think about how to pay for the maintenance needs of our streets in Taylor.”
Principles from Strong Towns were used as a framework. Strong Towns is an organization that aims to support thousands of people across the U.S. and Canada and offers new radical thoughts about the way cities are built. Taylor hosted workshops with Strong Towns last year before city comprehensive plan workshops.
“The reason why we have focused on the Strong Towns approach,” said Yantis, “is that it starts to recognize that we’re in an upside down position.”
Taylor uses three programs when it comes to leveling up a street. A road can either leveled up, milled and overlaid, or reconstructed.
City staff estimates leveling up a street costs $10 per linear foot and mill and overlay costs $35. The costs for reconstruction jumps to $675 per linear foot, not including money needed for utility replacements.
Yantis went on to explain how street maintenance funds are allocated and where they originate. One source is the city’s general fund, which approximately half comes from property taxes.
Based on those and other figures, city staff says it would take 47 years to generate sufficient revenue from the properties of both sides of a street to reconstruct 55 feet of street in front of a property lot.
“We get ourselves into an upside down position when we start thinking that we can solve the street maintenance needs in the city, especially all the ones that have been identified for reconstruction,” said Yantis, “if we think that we can do it with our current revenue streams because we just don’t have enough property tax value and revenue from those revenue streams to generate sufficient funds for that level of maintenance.”
Yantis quoted Strong Towns founder Charles L. Marohn as saying, “The urgent constraint we must address is one of simple math. In the infinite game of building a community, our ongoing expenses currently exceed our ongoing revenues. Our liabilities exceed our wealth.”
The council spent the rest of the hour discussing street maintenance questions posed by Yantis. Answers could help the program evolve.
“(Yantis) did a great job explaining in detail why we are unable to keep up with our street repairs and the reason our maintenance needs exceed our revenue,” said Drummond. “More importantly, he suggested a path forward to help remediate this situation and create sustainable future planned developments that will pay for their infrastructure maintenance as opposed to adding to the deficit.”
For more from the workshop, visit https://taylortx.swagit.com/play/01272021-994/3.