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The Daily Journal - OUR OPINION: Start discussions now on road repair plans
by The Daily Journal | Apr 06, 2018
The Daily Journal
With new reports and information on the condition of Tupelo’s local street system, city leaders have an important task ahead of them in determining a long-term plan for maintaining and repairing a vital resource while also being diligent stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Members of Tupelo’s City Council were briefed last week on the state of some extensive efforts launched in the last year to improve the city’s extensive ecosystem of roads.
One of those actions includes the council doubling the annual paving budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year from nearly $1 million to about $2 million, an ambitious commitment toward road maintenance efforts.
Another effort came with council members appropriating money for Public Works to purchase a digital system, StreetSaver, to monitor and forecast road conditions, as reported by the Daily Journal’s Caleb Bedillion. The StreetSaver program allowed for the creation of an archived database of every public street in the city, along with specific road conditions and deficiencies documented for each road.
Using the program, local engineer Dustin Dabbs with Civil Link has projected the future decay of the citywide street system as well as the projected impact of ongoing repair and maintenance at recent funding levels.
Based upon that forecast, Dabbs has concluded that the recent funding level of $1 million annually is insufficient to keep pace with depreciation.
Dabbs discussed the projected impact of various other potential funding levels and highlighted the impact of a maintenance diversion now contained within the Major Thoroughfare Program.
However, Dabbs and Public Works Director Chuck Williams emphasized that they aren’t yet recommending any specific maintenance spending levels.
That will come later this year, sometime in the summer, and should be ready by the time the Tupelo City Council enters budget talks for next year in August.
Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis also told City Council members that paving streets brought into the city during a 2012 annexation will likely cost more than city leaders at the time believed.
Several council members voiced concern over the projected conditions of the city’s primary transportation network, but no specific discussion occurred about future appropriations.
We encourage city leaders to continue discussing this incredibly important issue well ahead of the time budget discussions roll around.
The reports presented last week offer a starting point for council members, administration leaders and Public Works officials to come together now to dive deep into the heart of the issue at hand.
Not unlike the ongoing conversations on the state level, shoring up our local system of roads and bridges is vital for a variety of reasons ranging from public safety to commerce.
The real challenge comes not with recognizing the significance of the work needing to be done but with determining how to fund those projects, as well as other important initiatives.
Starting those conversations now will hopefully allow Tupelo leaders to be in a better position when the time comes to make significant budget decisions on this matter.