published Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Chattanooga City Council wants roads budget increased


by Cliff Hightower
Cars and pedestrians use Seventh Street in downtown Chattanooga on Wednesday. Seventh, Chestnut and Broad were among the downtown streets that recently were repaved. Some Chattanooga City Council members want to budget at least $5 million a year for street maintenance.
Cars and pedestrians use Seventh Street in downtown Chattanooga on Wednesday. Seventh, Chestnut and Broad were among the downtown streets that recently were repaved. Some Chattanooga City Council members want to budget at least $5 million a year for street maintenance.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Some Chattanooga City Council members said they'd like to see $5 million allocated to road work in next year's budget.

"Can we not find $5 million in a $209 million budget to do what citizens are screaming for us to do?" Councilman Chip Henderson asked.

The $5 million figure is the least the city should spend on road maintenance, according to a three-year study.

But over the last three years, the city has spent $1.5 million to $2 million on road maintenance, records show.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is expected to deliver his budget to council members in August.

Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Berke, said the Public Works and Transportation departments are working on the budget.

Henderson said he and other council members met with public works staff and learned about the $5 million figure.

"We asked them point blank, 'What do you need in the budget to get done what you need to get done?'" he said.

Ken Smith, chairman of the council's Public Works and Transportation Committee, said he isn't wedded to any budget number yet.

However, previous amounts put into road maintenance won't cut it, he said. Enough money should be included in the budget to protect the city's $2 billion asset in roads.

"I certainly know $2 million isn't enough," he said.

Councilman Jerry Mitchell said he wants to see at least $5 million, and he'll fight to see that amount in the budget.

"We've got line-item capabilities and I'll make that clear," he said. "I sure will."

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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