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Road program could dip into Auburn’s general fund

Council orders update of 10-year overlay plan
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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WHAT IT COSTS

In 2005, Charles Clark, Auburn’s public works director at the time, said in his 10-year pavement overlay plan that the city needed to spend $1.5 million each year (in 2005 dollars) to get back on track with its 20-year road repair cycle. Here’s what the city has spent on overlay and paving projects in every fiscal year since then:

2006-07: $1,611,516

2007-08: $426,924

2008-09: $32,795

2009-10: $376,324

2010-11: $621,473

2011-12: $71,080

2012-13: $1,088,268*

* projected

 

Source: Andy Heath, Auburn Administrative Services Director

 

Auburn Mayor Kevin Hanley’s constituents are not the only source telling him that more work needs to be done on the city’s roadways.

“I have a gut feeling we’re not spending enough and not doing enough road overlaying,” Hanley said.

Rather than relying on that “gut feeling,” Hanley raised the matter in a Nov. 19 City Council meeting and a 5-0 vote approved direction for Bernie Schroeder, the city’s public works director, to update the 10-year pavement overlay plan developed in 2005.

The results of the study will provide a basis for the council when it looks at the city’s budget next spring or summer to possibly decide whether it must tap into the general fund to keep pace with a 20-year road repair cycle.

If it does, that could mean tough decisions ahead, including a delay in restoring city employees’ salaries that had been cut amid the recession, Hanley said. The city spends on average 70 to 75 cents per taxpayer dollar on its employees’ wages and benefits, according to a city report.

“The general fund … the overwhelming portion is pay and benefits and some supplies,” Hanley said. “So those are kind of the competing choices. And this year, most of the employees had a 4 percent bump as a measure of the council’s commitment to try to replace some of those pay cuts from previous years.

“Those are hard decisions, really.”

A reason why the city has been able to avoid tapping into general fund reserves for road work is because of redevelopment grants, but legislation passed last year that eliminated redevelopment – drying up a revenue source that helped fix streets in the core business district, Hanley said.

According to the 2005 overlay plan, the city would need to spend $1.5 million each year to get back on track with a 20-year road repair cycle – that includes paving 3 1/2 centerline miles per year and sidewalk, drainage and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance construction.

However, at that time the city had been using on average $400,000 in gas tax and transportation funds, leaving a $1.1 million funding discrepancy annually.

“I just saw that one revenue source disappear,” Hanley said of more than a year operating without those redevelopment funds. “You just can’t count on state and federal money on road repair.”

For the 2011-12 fiscal year, 50,000 square feet of street overlay has been completed – down from 375,000 in 2010-11 and 113,000 in 2009-10, according to the department of public works’ performance budget.

Delaying road repairs increases costs exponentially, emphasizing the importance of a 20-year repair cycle; each $1 in renovation cost in year 18 of a road’s lifespan increases to $6 about five years later, according to a chart in the 2005 report.

The city is about three years behind the overlay schedule laid out in the 2005 plan, Schroeder said.

For example, the Dairy Road project that completed earlier this month had been slated for 2007-08, and a “good percentage” of the work was reconstruction of areas that had reached that critical point of deterioration, she said.

The cost of road work has also increased, with materials alone rising about 10 to 15 percent since 2005, Schroeder said. It has also become more expensive with the added emphasis on ADA compliance, she added.

The 10-year plan’s timeline for roadwork is more concrete through the first five years, and the second half of that period is allotted for long-term planning, with more variation on the work schedule, Schroeder said. Projects also get delayed because of other infrastructure work, such is the reason work on East Lincoln Way has been postponed due to a Placer County Water Authority project there, she added.

In the end, it “all boils down to the funding component,” Schroeder said.

Updating the plan will take a few months, and although that will ultimately indicate what lies ahead for funding, Schroeder said it’s “pretty likely” the general fund could be tapped into for the road overlay program.

In the meantime, Hanley will have other advisers weighing in.

“When I come out of St. Joseph’s church on Sunday, I get buttonholed by city residents on certain problems, and this is one of them,” Hanley said. “It’s kind of a major one that really affects the average resident, just the state of the roads.”

 

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews