Scrap and save

Most of the time, municipal processes work just fine. But once in a while, something comes up that gives “government workers” a bad name. The street resurfacing recommendation that is part of tonight’s consent agenda is one of them.

Because of the increase in tipping fees at the landfill that the county did not determine until after town manager Roger Stancil had already formulated a budget, Stancil is now scrambling to come up with an extra $62,000. Rather than find someone on staff to lay off, he could delay some nonessential improvement. Road resurfacing tops my list. It seems a nicety to do regularly when coffers are flush, but low enough on the priority list to do without when money is tight. Kind of akin to skipping a haircut to pay the light bill.

So when I saw the recommendation for road resurfacing, I checked the list of roads that the town said had not been resurfaced for 18.5 years, on average. I was surprised to see streets in my neighborhood and streets I drive regularly that have been resurfaced in the past few years.

I can’t vouch for every street on the list. Perhaps there are a half dozen streets that haven’t been resurfaced in 34 years that balance out the half dozen streets I know were resurfaced in the past three years. But given that the entire list of 39 streets constitutes 6.4 miles of roadway total, it would be worth having someone from Public Works drive over to the 39 streets and take a second look. Delaying the resurfacing on at least some of the roads on the list would not affect quality of life in town or cause harm to the streets. And it could instantly come up with the extra $62,000 for tipping fees.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. George C

     /  June 13, 2011


    If you want to see what happens when you delay street maintenance to save money just drive around Durham for a few hours. When the new City Manager arrived at his first press conference a few years ago he apologized for the delay and explained that it was due to having to navigate the worst streets he had ever seen. And Durham just passed a $20 million bond issue to do the street maintenance that should have been done all along out of their operating budgets.

    I haven’t looked to see whether that $62,000 could have been moved out of street maintenance/repaving without any significant impact upon the results. But when you start thinking that routine maintenance can be put off for “just another year or two” it often becomes three or four and before you know it you’re in a Durham-like situation. Spot repairs can go only so far in maintaining the overall integrity of a street and its sub-structure.

  2. Nancy Oates

     /  June 13, 2011

    I grew up in Iowa, a state that needs no “Welcome” sign. Drivers can tell immediately when they’ve crossed into Iowa because of the poor roads. So I’m well aware of the dangers of postponing maintenance too long. But putting off resurfacing for one year is not the same as putting it off for three or four years. Some of the streets on the list are cul-de-sacs, so they aren’t high-traffic, high-priority streets. And if we have only a limited amount of resources, this would be a fairly painless way of coming up with that extra $62,000.

  3. Scott Maitland

     /  June 13, 2011

    Wait… want to visually inspect streets to make sure they really need resurfacing? What kind of common sense, easy to do, low cost solution is that? 😉

    Thanks for pointing out a great way to save money………..

  4. Mark Marcoplos

     /  June 13, 2011

    Another aspect of this is the passive way that governments typically deal with decrees from above. Orange County says suck it up and pay the landfill fees we authorized without your input. The state says suck it up and make do without educational funding. The feds say that bombing Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraq are no-brainers for profligate spending so make do without transportation, education, and health funding.

    At what point do we as citizens demand that enough is enough and we are the actual citizens of this so-called democracy? Our local governments act like the abused children of alcoholic parents and give in to whatever demands/thefts are imposed upon us from above. It’s our tax money – from local to federal – and we shouldn’t have to start fighting over increasingly smaller table scraps to meet the needs of our communities.