Roads – and how to keep them maintained – dominated discussion at Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council workshop meeting.
First up, the council agreed to continue to fully repave streets after Spokane County crews lay sewer lines as part of its Septic Tank Elimination Program – even though costs could rise as high as $4 million this year as there are several neighborhoods set to be done.
“The county was a little surprised, as well,” said Steve Worley, senior engineer for the city.
The city has partnered with the county for sewer construction since incorporation, determined to remove septic tanks – which have proven to be harmful to the aquifer, the area’s sole source of drinking water. That program is set to end in 2011. This year, neighborhoods in Ponderosa, Valleyview, Rotchford Acres and Clement (near Fourth Avenue and Evergreen Road) will have sewer lines installed.
While STEP is funded through county sewer bills and hook-up fees, what isn’t paid for is the new asphalt that is laid over the top of roadways once the work has been completed. Patches where the cuts are made is the cheaper way to go, but they are not beneficial to the overall life of the streets, say road engineers.
It’s also more pleasant to drive on and look at, said Council Member Bill Gothmann, who lives in one of the soon-to-be-affected neighborhoods. Where he lives in Ponderosa, the street is broken up into 6-by-6-inch squares of cracked asphalt.
“There is a great need for paving,” he said.
Full-width paving has been a hot-button issue in Spokane Valley for the past few years. In 2004, the council tried to pass a street bond vote that would have raised 21 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation from property owners for six years in order to raise $6 million for curb-to-curb paving for the remainder of the project. The measure failed with 52 percent saying no – and a 60-percent supermajority was needed for passage.
Stung, council members said road crews would simply patch over streets that had been dug up in the future. The result would be roads that crack and deteriorate as water seeps into crevices and freezes in cold weather.
The following summer, however, city revenues were coming in higher than expected and a dozen citizens testified from the Sherwood Forest, Mica Park and Johnston areas that they wanted their streets fully paved like everyone else.
Although then-Mayor Mike DeVleming and current mayor (then deputy mayor) Richard Munson said no, the council voted to spend $500,000 to pay for the improvements.
Munson said Tuesday that he hasn’t forgotten that Spokane Valley citizens voted no to full-width paving.
“We said then that there would be a time coming where we’d have to pull back on curb-to-curb,” Munson said. “I think we’re getting there.”
Jeff Howe, who said he installs sewer lines, said the program is a good one.
“It makes total sense to pave the roads,” he said. “You’re already in there.”
On the downside, two planned road-improvement projects on South Bowdish and at Evergreen Road near 32nd Avenue won’t be done this year, Worley said, in order to help pay for the full paving in the neighborhoods.
“Those are major arterials that have a greater percentage on the deterioration curve due to greater use,” Taylor said. “Yet we’ve continue to do the full paving without a dedicated funding source.”
Worley also added that the city has an additional $2.8 million available as federal stimulus funding is coming to fund planned road improvements for Sprague Avenue and Appleway Boulevard.
In other road-related news, Joe Tortorelli – of the Spokane Area Good Roads Association – came to solicit the council’s support in a statewide ban of studded snow tires. Tortorelli said that advances in technology have made studs – which are estimated to cause about $18 million in damage to state roads each year – obsolete.
Also, Neil Kersten, city public works director, said efforts continue to secure a new snowplowing contractor in time for next winter. He said he will need assistance from Spokane County before taking any further steps. The county, the previous provider of snow removal, will sever its contract on Oct. 15; officials there have vowed they will assist the city in gathering any information it needs to move forward on its own.
“We need that so contractors clearly understand the scope of work,” Kersten said.