published Friday, June 17th, 2011

City paving could get financial boost


by Cliff Hightower
Ron McGill fills potholes on Garden Road.
Ron McGill fills potholes on Garden Road.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Doubling the amount of road-paving money in Chattanooga’s new budget may not be enough to solve existing problems with roads, a city councilwoman said.

“I don’t think it’s enough,” said Councilwoman Deborah Scott. “If it had been enough, Public Works wouldn’t have requested $5 million for the next five years.”

Mayor Ron Littlefield’s proposed 2011-12 budget includes $2 million for the city’s paving program — $1 million more than this year’s budget. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

The Department of Public Works requested $5 million in paving money for next year and has asked for the same amount each year in the city’s five-year plan, records show.

But Lee Norris, deputy public works administrator, said the city must make do with whatever it gets after its pavement management program takes effect in the fall.

The program has been in the works for almost two years. The city has collected data on all its streets to see how much maintenance is needed and how close they are to failing.

Armed with that information, Norris said, the city will know how much money to put into each street.

“It will give you a true picture year after year of what it takes to maintain our streets,” he said.

The study should be completed before the spring start of the paving season, he said. Regular maintenance will extend the streets’ life, he said.

“If it’s maintained on a periodic level, that road will last forever,” Norris said.

Eddie Tate, the department’s pavement manager, said the program will help stretch paving dollars.

“We’ll be able to be ahead of the curve instead of behind the curve,” he said.

The City Council is expected to vote on the 2011-12 budget within a month.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said the $2 million for paving was a “great step up” from last year. She also said there will be more money in next year’s capital budget for road work. The mayor has yet to release that budget.

Ladd said $2 million should be a good chunk of change for the department to help maintain roads.

“I believe it’s an appropriate amount,” she said.

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