Most of money to come from reserve funds

Havelock commissioners voted to spend $500,000 on road repairs at the end of a day-long meeting Monday.

Havelock Public Services Director Mark Sayger gave board members a detailed assessment of the worst roads within the city. He recommended that 60 percent of the money be used for small repairs such as sealing cracks or patching skin that would extend the life of the pavement.

“If you spend a dollar in the first 15 to 20 years of pavement, you save $15 on the other side when it starts to deteriorate,” Sayger told board members during his presentation. “Preventative maintenance is really the biggest bang for your buck.”

Street repairs have been a controversial issue in Havelock. In a 2015 community summit, many residents listed poor road conditions as a problem in the city. Staff proposed a $15 per vehicle fee that would be used for street repairs, but that proposal met with stiff opposition at a packed public hearing on the subject. A proposed property tax increase to pay for repairs also was eventually nixed.

The city plans to use $170,000 in Powell Bill funds from the state gasoline tax as well as $330,000 from the city’s own reserve funds to pay for the street repairs.

Sayger recommended spending 40 percent of the $500,000 on complete curb-to-curb paving on streets in the worst condition. Full resurfacing projects for the top ten worst roads in the city could cost $755,000, he said.

Sayger said that Havelock has 46 miles of streets that the city is responsible for maintaining.

In 2012, of 396 identified segments of roads, repairs were recommended on 249 of them. Of those, 229 had high-priority issues.

According to a survey completed in the fall, the top 10 worst streets include Brown Boulevard, Park Lane, Gray Fox Road, South Forest Circle, Rhonda Court, East Sherwood Drive, West Sherwood Drive, Smith Circle, South Forest Drive and the Pinedale cul-de-sac in Woodhaven.

Commissioners left open the possibility of spending $300,000 in additional funds for road work.

At the beginning of the meeting, city finance officer Lee Tillman told commissioners that city expenses were less than budgeted, resulting in nearly $1.5 million going back into the city’s reserve fund.

“We had budgeted to spend about $10.7 (million). We actually only spent about $9.2 (million),” said Tillman.

A large part of the returned money came from salaries for two positions that were vacant through part of the year, while the remainder was from assorted other sources such as insurance, Powell Bill, capital planning and savings on electric and fuel costs, among other items.

It is from this returned money that commissioners planned to fund a portion of the road work.

“I don’t foresee us spending all of our presumed savings out of the general fund for that, but I think this is definitely a more appropriate use of the funds that we have not utilized,” Commissioner Peter Van Vliet said. “It would be a lot easier to show any citizen who asks. We’re not going to be faced with having to explain, well you saved a million and a half dollars, good job, but why did you take that as revenue to begin with if your weren’t going to expend it? So here we have an actual plan to show, hey, this is what we’re using it for.”

City Manager Frank Bottorff said about $750,000 would be needed annually to keep the city streets “at an A.”

“The reality is that we can now make some budgetary decisions in the short term to start having an impact on the roads, although even with the money we have, it is not enough to fund a sustainable solution into the future,” said Bottorff.

Mayor Will Lewis said he was generally not a fan of using reserve money for road repairs.

“We have got to do what we have got to do, and (reserve) fund is what we have to fix the roads right now,” he said.

Commissioner Danny Walsh suggested that the busiest streets be given priority for repair.

“My brain says lets fix the roads at the busiest intersections first rather than the end of the cul-de-sac where there is only one house,” he said.

Sayger said city staff made an effort to put emphasis on high-use roads in determining the priority list.