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STREET REPAIR FUNDING

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
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    Posted: Dec 28 2014 at 8:55am

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014

Politics, funding put speed bumps in street repairs

By Michael D. Pitman and Ed Richter

Staff Writer

BUTLER COUNTY 

    Cities and townships in Butler County are looking at ways they can provide the road resurfacing services to their residents with limited funding sources.

    Millions of dollars are invested annually into the county’s roadways. However, the funding supply doesn’t meet the demand of repair — especially in Butler County’s two largest cities, Hamilton and Middletown — which continues to rise in a time where government budgets and funding sources are shrinking.

    The Butler County Engineer’s Office is charged with paving the roadways of all the townships in the county. Over the past 11 years has spent an annual average of $6.5 million in capital projects and $1.48 million in paving projects and maintain 268 centerline miles of roadway in Butler County.

    And while 96 percent of Butler County roads maintained by the engineer’s office are considered to be at least in “fair” condition — and 24 percent is considered to be rated “excellent” — the engineer’s office, like just about every other government entity, is behind in paving.

    “Our biggest struggle with maintenance currently is paving,” said Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens, who added the county has 4.4 million square yards of pavement under his responsibility.

    Right now, the engineer’s office will address paving issues for county roads in a 26-year cycle. But the standard is 15 years, Wilkens said, and that will take an additional $1.1 million a year in today’s dollars to accomplish that.

    All county-maintained roads, however, won’t necessarily received full repaving — which means 2 to 3 inches of asphalt will be replaced — but rather some will receive a chip seal, which is essentially “waterproofing” the roads by adding a thin layer of asphalt and fine gravel. Wilkens said that will extend the life of the roadway, but won’t add the stability that repaving offers.

    About 25 percent of the roads in the county’s control has less than 1,000 average daily traffic counts, and any roadway under that threshold will receive a chip seal treatment.

“We would prefer to apply asphalt to every road,” Wilkens said. “However, due to cost and budget, that’s not possible.”

    Currently the county engineer’s paving budget is approximately $1.5 million.

    The city of Hamilton budgets $2.25 million to repave about 3 miles of its 250 centerline miles each year, and according to Public Works Director Richard Engle, it would cost about $100 million to bring every road in the city up to a “fair” condition this year.

    Just more than $1 million of that funding comes from state grant sources, including the Ohio Public Works Commission and Community Development Block Grant funds. About $700,000 is budgeted in the city’s infrastructure renewal fund — whose funds stem from customer utility fees and taxes from special license plates and electric usage — $200,000 comes from the stormwater fund, which is used solely to repair and replace curbs associated with catch basins, and about $300,00 is assessed to the property owner whose street is being repaired for sidewalk and curb replacement.

    Some of Hamilton’s street issues lie underneath the surface, as the ground base on the east side is gravel while west side streets lie on clay, and on the latter, a proper subgrade was not originally made, which enables more water to seep through the pavement and freeze, melt and expand, causing pot holes and other street deficiencies.

    “The thing that destroys pavement the fastest is having water trapped between the pavement and the subgrade,” Engle said.

    Between 2000 and 2008, the Department of Public Works received less than $2 million annually to repave the roads. After 2008, more money was requested.

    About 50 percent of Hamilton’s roads received a score of 50 or less on the Pavement     Condition Index — the standard measuring system — and should be completely reconstructed, Engle said. About 20 percent received a score of 51 to 70 PCI, a “fair” condition where an asphalt overlay may suffice to keep the road in working condition, and about 30 percent are determined to be in “good” condition, where preventative maintenance could extend the pavement life considerably.

    The city also follows a schedule to determine which roads will be repaved each year, which is why some of Hamilton’s worst roads may not be addressed immediately, Engle said. The cities’ top five worst roads are Corwin Avenue, Carlisle Avenue, River Road, Laurel Avenue, and Hooven Avenue, according to city workers.

    Public Works also works closely with the Utility Department when determining which roads to pave, and coordinates with utility projects to keep from tearing streets up multiple times. That’s why River Road remains in disrepair even as it’s arguably the street Engle receives the most complaints about.

    “There is a utility project that needs to be done before we do work on River Road, and we don’t have the resources at the moment to do it,” he said.

Jean Bryant, 85, has lived on Carlisle Street since 1963, and said she can never remember her road being repaired.

    “All they do is patch them up,” she said, adding that when the city built a bridge overpass over     Two Mile Creek in 1998, “that was the worst thing they could have done.”

    “This was supposed to be a neighborhood for children, and it’s so dangerous,” she said.

    Middletown officials also have many of the same challenges that Hamilton faces as both communities grapple on how to cover the growing costs to build or maintain streets and roads.

City Manager Doug Adkins said there are several reasons that include a charter amendment that removed the required allocation of income tax going directly to capital improvements that was repealed in the 1980s; annexations through the years have created more pavement to maintain; and many of the city’s roadway systems were designed for higher traffic levels and a larger number of residents. He said there were some past estimates projecting Middletown’s population to have more than 60,000 residents. According to the 2010 Census, Middletown’s population was about 49,000 residents.

    As a result of long national economic expansion during the 1980s, inflation started to increase prompting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates from 1986 to 1989. Middletown felt that pain as the city’s income tax receipts were decreasing as a result of job reductions, including the moving of Armco Steel’s headquarters to New Jersey the year before. City officials were also grappling with other budget issues concerning personnel and other municipal programs and needs. The slow economy wasn’t helping the city, either, and in 1986, the city was facing the the loss of $1 million from its budget as a result of the federal government ending the revenue sharing program, according to a Middletown Journal story.

    However, the city’s infrastructure, specifically the streets, was in fairly good shape back nearly 30 years ago.

    In order to avert projected budget deficits for 1987 and 1988, the Middletown City Commission had two options: seek a 0.5 percent income tax hike and the charter change was needed to avert projected budget deficits for 1987 and 1988. In The Journal reported there was no real opposition when residents voted in May 1986 to repeal the income tax split provision from the 1960s that required that one-half of the city income tax receipts would cover capital improvements, such as street repairs, in exchange for raising the city income tax rate from 1 percent to 1.5 percent.

    City commissioners at the time feared the negative impact to development if they sought an income tax hike and had intended the reallocation as a short-term fix as well as seeking an income tax increase at a later date. At that time, commissioners said they intended to keep street maintenance level at their current levels. The street program slowed once the federal revenue sharing dried up.

    Voters later rejected tax levies of 0.25 percent in 1997 and in 2004 for street improvements. In 2006, voters also rejected a proposed 0.75 percent increase where a portion of the revenues would be used, but not required to be spent on streets and other infrastructure. Council considered putting a streets levy on the ballot in 2008, but decided against it opting later to have a 0.25 percent income tax increase for public safety which voters later made it a permanent increase. The current income tax rate is 1.75 percent.

    “One mil of city property tax goes for capital improvements,” Adkins said. This equals about $620,000 for 2014. Most of this is used towards road improvements. A small portion is used for traffic signal system replacements, pavement striping, misc. building and park repairs.”

While it varies from year to year, Adkins said the city also receives federal Community     Development Block Grant through Butler County as well as General Fund revenues from the generation of city income tax. The city also has outside funding sources for road improvements include Ohio Public Works Commission grants, federal infrastructure grants through the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, and the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Urban Paving Program for state routes.

    In 2014, the city received about $2.2 million in auto and gas tax funds are used street maintenance, which includes labor, material, and equipment costs for the street maintenance crew, he said. Add in the outside and grant funding that total grows to about $4.2 million for road improvements in 2014.

    There is no reimbursement for maintaining state routes through the city, but ODOT does provide funding for major resurfacing projects on those routes through the Urban Paving Program, said Scott Tadych, public works and utilities director. He said the state typically pays about 80 percent of the asphalt costs.

    Other city departments such as water, sewer and stormwater provide some additional funding when it’s appropriate to replace/repair pavement associated with these types of infrastructure projects, Adkins said.

    Middletown has about 220 center line miles of streets to maintain and its estimated in 2008 to cost more than $120 million, not adjusted to inflation, Tadych said. He said every two years the city conducts a PCI and expects to have a better estimate later in 2015 after then next PCI is conducted.

    “The city would not ‘catch up’ with $2 million a year over 60 years,” Adkins said. “More funds per year over a shorter timeframe would be needed.”

    About every two years, the city does a PCI where each street is evaluated block by block. In 2013 PCI, the average score of city streets was at 57 out of a possible score of 100. Of those streets, the 2013 PCI scored 35 percent of the streets in good condition, 18 percent were in fair condition and 47 percent were in poor condition, Tadych said.

    According to the city’s PCI, the worst streets, rated at failure, are portions of Wisconsin Street, Water Street, Vermont Street, Cherry Street, Creekview Drive and two portions of Sheffield Street. Tadych said Creekview Drive’s rating will increase as it was recently repaved.

    The city has 38 streets rated at 100 percent based on the 2013 PCI.

    Adkins told City Council during his job interview last summer that the current system was not working and something had to change. He said the $2 million budgeted for 2014 had no supporting reasoning as it did not identify the number of lane miles, the cost per lane mile, which lanes are to be paved and how did that meet city objectives.

    “The process of appropriating $2 million for paving in 2014 is completely different process from developing an ongoing sustainable paving program,” he wrote. “One is emptying bank accounts, the other is building sustainable capacity.”

 

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acclaro View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote acclaro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 28 2014 at 11:12am
Every time I read this, I get ill.

At one time, 50%....that's right....505 of tax revenues, went to roads. Today, its less than 2%, and only on heavily traveled roads.

Mr. Adkins recognizes the fact it won't be sufficient for 2 Mm annually to repave roads over 60 years. But, he offers no solution, other than getting 66% of your neighbors to agree to fund your street and your expense.

Middletown will never recover, economic development will always suffer. And, the undeniable reality 155 Mm went into school buildings in a poor school district, while people don't care to drive on pebbles.

The mind, what a terrible thing to waste. 
'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.' - Winston Churchill
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 28 2014 at 8:29pm
From the Becker administration thru the Gilleland administration and now into the Adkins administration, none have found it a priority to repair the streets.

Bill Becker and the council in the 80's, found fit to ask the people for permission to move the street funds to another fund, but Becker nor any other city manager made it a priority to replace the street repair money. Why? Did you actually think we would forget?

Why aren't the streets as important as the dam downtown/artzy area? The city clowns can always find money to waste on their precious downtown but they just can't seem to find a focus on any other part of town. They've got money laying around to loan their little downtown buddies to help their business. It's been this way for years with no one smart enough in the city building to recognize that there are needs throughout this community where this money should be channeled. Cutting safety services, watching the streets go to grass and the infrastructure crack before their eyes while the downtown, a losing venture, gets the revival treatment. YOUR city leaders are incredibly clueless.

What is the matter with the people running this city?

Reading this article, I noticed that the only solution mentioned was to raise the income tax (from 1% to 1.5 and now at 1.75%) or offer a street repair levy, both unacceptable since the city hasn't made a real effort to resupply all the businesses/jobs lost over the last four decades. That's where the real revenue money is........corporate and payroll taxes resulting from newly created business acquisitions and the employees that would follow. Not gonna get the revenue you need from oversaturated Section 8 HUD money, parking tickets, impound fees, ambulance runs, the existing feeble business taxes in town, your balloon or Mid-Fest kickback or any other existing source currently available.

Where are the real revenue generating ideas from city hall?

Here's an idea. How about charging a couple of bucks to use your bike path. That should get you an extra 50 bucks per week to build your revenue empire. Mercy.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vivian Moon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 9:51am
They have been kicking this same can down the road for 30 years.
Its time for them boys at City Hall to bite the bullet and put the money back into repairing our street.
Mercy

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote acclaro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 10:41am
This was a very interesting article.

Firstly, it reveals the easiest and most prudent decision was to re-engineer/ restructure the human capital resources to reflect the loss of revenue, which continued through the present. The situation never improved, and financially, actually worsened. So, mistake 1 was the city never made cuts to reflect the decreasing revenue, which they never did.  

Secondly, the former commissioners realized raising taxes from 1 % to  1.5% and higher, would negatively impact development, including job creation. Middletown and Hamilton WILL NEVER ATTRACT new business and new residents, when West Chester and so many areas, offer 0% tax. So there is mistake 2, not cutting resources to reflect revenue dollars declining, and then they raised taxes, which negatively impacted jobs and development, which commissioners knew would result 30 years ago.

Now council wants a 2.25% increase?

Insane people managing insanely. Why expect a different result. 
'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.' - Winston Churchill
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote over the hill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 11:31am
I guess the eternal optimist just keeps hoping for a miracle or a messiah which ever comes first!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TonyB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 11:57am
Isn't that how Middletown has always developed? Paul J. Sorg, George Verity. Came to town, opened businesses that thrived and provided the economic growth that built this city twice. Over the hill; that is exactly what this city needs; an entrepreneur who will come to town, build his business here and live here and give back to the community.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote acclaro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 12:21pm
TonyB, I am uncertain if you are serious, but the difference was the titans built their business and lived here, when there were limited roads and ease of commuting.

Today, you'd build in West Chester and live in Indian Hills. Not so 75 years ago.
'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.' - Winston Churchill
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TonyB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 1:14pm
I am serious in the sense that it's going to take something similar if Middletown is going to rebuild its job base. Someone willing to bring their business to the town and live there as well.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote acclaro Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 1:40pm
TonyB, did you ever watch the movie called Waiting on Superman, about the complete failure of the national public education system?

Superman will appear in the school systems nationwide centuries before a benefactor you describe, makes another appearance in Middletown. Even those mini Superman characters and wealthy mini benefactors are departing the city, not coming in.

http://youtu.be/SXjXKT98esw 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 2:06pm
Originally posted by TonyB TonyB wrote:

I am serious in the sense that it's going to take something similar if Middletown is going to rebuild its job base. Someone willing to bring their business to the town and live there as well.





TonyB, I'd like to make another suggestion.

Perhaps a scenario that would be more doable nowadays might be to attract an already established business such as a P&G or some other company needing a centrally located logistics hub between two major Ohio cities and on a major north/south route such as I-75.

If the city were to miraculously clean up it's act, and convince a major corporation to locate here, one who needs a location like Middletown provides, we may see the START that would trigger more growth that mattered. HOWEVER, with the current thinking, the current city condition, reputation, business unfriendly environment, crime, malaise and all the things we talk about on this forum transpiring, I don't see anything like that happening in the next several decades or, until a total purge of the current crop of leaders and their small minded thinking dies on the vine over time.

THAT CHANGE, will require a major turnaround in the general attitude of the majority of this city to enact, through demands and voting purge, replacing current inept leadership with the correct people needed to lead us out of the pits. Need to throw the council out and replace them with competent people, who will then fire the city manager and demand that the new council start the purge of any and all management who supported him. That's a start. The MMF needs to be told not to involve themselves in city business as their agenda has done nothing to help Middletown prosper. Too many "my way or the highway" controlling egos in that organization to help this city.

At this time, a "new day" is very unlikely to happen. Most people simply don't care enough about this city to force any changes at all. Too busy doing drugs, drinking beer, eating their dollar menu cheeseburgers, working their jobs, paying the bills, playing video games, charging up their credit cards and surviving until the next paycheck comes around......and city leadership is counting on it staying that way as they are comfortable with the apathy shown to date. As long as most don't care, they are safe from being challenged. Sad.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 2:09pm
Originally posted by acclaro acclaro wrote:

TonyB, did you ever watch the movie called Waiting on Superman, about the complete failure of the national public education system?

Superman will appear in the school systems nationwide centuries before a benefactor you describe, makes another appearance in Middletown. Even those mini Superman characters and wealthy mini benefactors are departing the city, not coming in.

http://youtu.be/SXjXKT98esw 





Sounds like required viewing for teachers, supers and school boards, although none will admit there is a problem.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote over the hill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 3:00pm
I know for a fact there are talented business people in this town but because of current policies and current council members and inept "leaders" in place they are reluctant to come forward. Hopefully one day ,if they're still here, they may take a chance. They're right under councils' noses and they can't even recognize them. IMO
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TonyB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 29 2014 at 5:00pm
I wasn't saying that it would happen; just that it's about the only way Middletown would actually make some kind of comeback.
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