By Tim Cox
Celina City Council members have resumed discussion on how the city will replace millions of dollars of aging streets in the coming years and where that money might come from.
City administration officials are compiling a list of potential street projects and ranking them based on priority. They also will evaluate the integrity of the infrastructure underneath the street to see if aging water and sewer pipes also should be replaced when streets are rebuilt.
The infrastructure work and the fact that many streets need completely rebuilt, not just resurfaced, presents a major funding challenge, officials said.
City officials cannot continue paving over existing streets, even for a short-term fix, community development consultant Kent Bryan said. In many places, another repaving would bring the road surface as high as the curb, he said.
"We've done that all we can ... There's no quick fix," Bryan said. "We don't have any source of money." The city has current plans in place to do one or two major street projects per year with federal money through the Ohio Department of Transportation. The federal highway money covers 80 percent of the costs, and the city already has secured Ohio Public Works Commission money to cover the local share on a couple of those projects.
Those projects cover streets that lie along or connect traffic to state and federal highway routes. Some of the work includes the recently completed Ash Street reconstruction between Market and Logan streets and the planned reconstruction of portions of Touvelle Street, Grand Lake Road, Main Street, Logan Street, Walnut Street and Myers Road through 2013.
Beyond those grant-assisted projects -- which current estimates say will cost about $12 million combined -- the city does not have enough money to put toward other street projects. Plus, that figure includes only the street work, not underlying water or sewer pipes. City administration officials say the city could easily spend $1 million annually to begin the task of updating city streets.
Some streets do not need completely rebuilt but the current layers of asphalt need to be milled down before resurfacing. Members of Celina City Council streets and alleys committee said they cannot justify widespread resurfacing and reconstruction work without addressing the water and sewer pipes under the street surface. Cuts into the pavement for repairs degrade the quality of a new street, they said.
"If you don't take care of what's underneath the street, the money for resurfacing will not be dollars well-spent," Councilman Rick Bachelor said.
Councilman Collin Bryan said there is no way to handle the cost of updating infrastructure without seeking some kind of tax increase. City residents voted against a six-year, 0.5 percent income tax increase in 2004 that would have partially gone toward street improvements.
A 0.5 percent income tax increase would generate about $1.3 million annually.
Even with the money, updating the city's streets will be a slow, deliberate process, Kent Bryan said.
"We're not going to cure this overnight," he said. "There's got to be a 10- to 20-year plan that we've got to follow."
Council members agreed to continue their discussions in 30 days after city administration officials refine and update the list of streets that need work and update the cost estimates. They are working from a list generated for the failed 2004 income tax issue.
Bachelor said a comprehensive plan is critical to eventually convincing voters of the need for new tax revenue.