Archive for Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Study finds most Baldwin City streets in good shape

A report the Baldwin City Council commissioned late last year finds most of the city's streets are in good shape, but recommends the city spend $160,000 annually to keep them that way.

A report the Baldwin City Council commissioned late last year finds most of the city's streets are in good shape, but recommends the city spend $160,000 annually to keep them that way.

August 13, 2013

The majority of Baldwin City streets are in good to excellent shape, but the city needs to spend $160,000 a year to keep them that way, according to a study commissioned by the Baldwin City Council.

Council members Christi Darnell and Shane Starkey, of the council’s public works committee, gave a brief summary of the study Aug. 5 to their fellow council members. The city hired Norm Bowers, former engineer with Johnson County Public Works, late last year to do the $10,000 study. Bowers inventoried the 26.5 miles of streets in the city, rated their condition, plotted deterioration rates and made maintenance recommendations.

Darnell and Starkey said the report gave the council a tool to determine how much to budget for street maintenance and which streets needed attention.

The council used that information in passing a 2014 budget, which earmarks $200,000 to overlay the asphalt and chip-seal street sections that Bowers rated poor.

The council also approved a $121,880 contract with Killough Construction for this year’s asphalt resurfacing work. The company is to mill and overlay Firetree Avenue, Flame Way and Blaze Boulevard. Overlay only is planned for Quayle, Eisenhower and Washington streets.

To stay on top of maintenance, Bowers recommends a schedule for all asphalt streets to receive a mill and overlay every 18 years, and that the asphalt cap of chip-seal streets be replaced every 13 years. Adding to the city’s maintenance expense in the coming years is the need to resurface streets in new subdivisions built in the 1990s, the report states.

If the city spent $160,000 a year on maintenance it could resurface about 1,600 feet of asphalt street, replace the asphalt cap on 7,400 feet of chip-seal streets and crack seal a quarter of city streets. Before the recession forced cutbacks in the annual program, Bowers found, the city averaged 6,300 feet of overlay annually from 1991 through 2008.

Bowers found 6 percent of the city’s streets to be in excellent condition and 61 percent to be in good condition. Only 9 percent were found to be in poor condition.

However, the ratings varied with the type of street, with the city’s asphalt streets rated the highest and its 1.86 miles of brick streets the lowest. There are no brick streets in the city rated excellent. Eight percent of brick surface streets are rated good, 80 percent fair and 12 percent poor.

The brick portion of Ninth Street is the lowest-rated street in the city, Darnell said.

Unlike the asphalt or chip-seal streets rated poor, there is no immediate recommendation to improve Ninth Street or other bad sections of brick streets. Instead, Bowers suggests further discussion on brick streets. Darnell said that whether brick streets, other than those in the historic downtown sections of Eighth and High streets, should remain brick is up for discussion.

Bowers was unable to attend the Aug. 5 meeting but is set to present his findings to the council at an upcoming meeting.

Comments

1776attorney 8 months, 1 week ago

I find this study very hard to take seriously on several levels. It’s difficult to believe that $10,000 in taxpayer dollars was spent on a pre-ordained study that could have been accomplished by a public works director and city manager (plus a mayor and city council) already on the city payroll.

Most of the conclusions in the study are just “common sense”. What do we pay a city manager for? To have the experience and knowledge to study and make these determinations himself, or do we pay him to hire even more people to tell him what he should already know.

I don’t come to these conclusions without good credentials. My family has lived in Baldwin City since a time when there were only downtown dirt streets (before brick streets) and dirt and rock city streets with no sidewalks throughout a very lightly inhabited city proper. I’ve also had relatives in Baldwin City government.

Here’s why this study is bogus. The city council, mayor and city manager know that taxpayers south of Highway 56 are angry. They feel short-changed. Their tax dollars (which represents a majority of taxes collected) are being funneled off and spent north of Highway 56 due to pressure from developers, businesses, the school district, and new, wealthier homeowners. It also is no coincidence that some members of city government live in these neighborhoods.

So the city government says “Hey, let’s commission a study that shows the south Highway 56 streets are fine and get this heat off our backs”. They hire a retired county official from Johnson County (even though they could do the job themselves or assign city workers to accomplish almost the same thing) to perform a study. I don;t see why an engineer was required for such a vague and brief study.

The hired researcher knows 2 things:

1) The members of city government are taking heat for siphoning off taxpayer dollars to pet projects north of Highway 56;

2) The city government is paying his fee. He answers to them, not the taxpayer.

What you end up with is a study written to validate what the mayor, city council and city manager want it to.

Here’s the real story. I spent time last week myself taking photographs on the FireTree streets scheduled for milling and re-asphalting next year. They are newer streets in a new development. There is some poor concrete curbing on several of the driveways (due to a developer’s decision to install lower quality cement). The streets are better than most of the city streets south of Highway 56 in that they all have curbs, rain sewers, some sidewalks, etc. The street pavement is 99% acceptable.

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1776attorney 8 months, 1 week ago

Perhaps someone at city hall could comment on how some streets south of Highway 56 are still chat / rock and have 2 foot deep muddy ditches and are in “good shape”.

The street curbing in the Signal photograph above looks to be in "good shape"? Really?

Sooner or later, some smart attorney is going to see opportunity in pursuing an action against the city for residential sidewalks that fail to meet federal disability requirements. Instead of ignoring the issues that taxpayers and homeowners find important, the city needs an annual program to upgrade the streets, lighting, sidewalks, and rain sewers south of Highway 56.

As a side note to Ms. Darnell -30 years ago a city council decided to asphalt over some of Baldwin City’s historic brick streets. These streets were in good (but not excellent) shape. For some reason the council didn’t want to pay for minor restorations. They thought asphalt and concrete was a simpler and cheaper option. This decision did not go over well with citizens and hopefully it will never happen again. The public was outraged.

Instead of listening to taxpayers, our city government chooses to pander to special interests while short- changing the majority of residents who are footing the bill.

Constructive comments are invited.

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puck 8 months, 1 week ago

I have little interest in resurfacing streets for the subdivisions when there are still gravel streets on the other side of the highway.

Also, hoping the city chooses to do the intelligent thing and restore the brick streets... the historic charm is about the only thing this town has going for it.

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straightforward 8 months ago

Has anyone who lives on one of these gravel streets (really just several blocks, not whole streets) ever approached the city about paving them. I've never heard of anyone doing so. I'm sure if they approached the city and were committed to footing part of the bill the city would be willing to consider it, especially if it helped get some of the commenters on here off their backs about it.

Those homeowners do need to foot some of the bill. They bought a house at a discounted price because it is on a gravel street, whereas those who live in the newer subdivisions paid more for their homes because their neighborhoods are paved with curbs and sidewalks. The developers who took the financial risk to develop those subdivisions paid for that infrastructure and past those costs on to the homeowners. It would only be fair that those living on gravel streets do the same, but again, I've never heard of any of those individuals speaking out about it.

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olsoothsayer 8 months ago

Maybe, but that's how it works. The cost is shared among the owners of the properties improved via special assessment.

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greyghost 8 months ago

What is that, one block? The city cannot pave just one block in order to become "a city that paves their streets?" I think the city should just rise above the pettiness and just chip/seal it--get it over with!

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Stacy Napier 8 months ago

Yes we have approached them. They want us to foot the bill for the wider street, curb, storm drain and sidewalk. to be assessed on the next years tax bill. Do you have that much money lying around? They won't pave just the road that is there.

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straightforward 8 months ago

Well I would agree with you and greyghost that chipping and sealing it should be sufficient. Regardless of what they would hypothetically do, it is fair to make you pay for some of it.

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Nathaniel Johnson 8 months ago

I agree with 1776Attorney but I would highlight that I think that the survey targeted the wrong issues. Most of the surface streets may be in good shape but the problems are not the surface conditions but the drainage, sidewalks, and signage of many of these streets. I have heard it suggested that homeowners are responsible for the sidewalks and that would be fine, if that were applied equally to all parts of the town. It isn't applied equally but the tax burden is. I do think that it was a good investment to pave the road in front of the highschool soccer fields since it is heavily used. It should have been done long before the 1055 sidewalk to nowhere. As far as bricks go, I would like to see the statistics on maintenance costs but I suspect that brick streets are far more expensive to maintain. Personally, I only see their charm in the downtown and do not care for driving on them as they get very slick and are hard on tires.

Apropos of signage: When are we going to put a Stop sign for East-West traffic on High Street at 6th Street? I use that intersection every day and it never fails that traffic coming from the East slows down as if they can't believe that there is no Stop sign. That is a crossing point for the safe sidewalk for students.

Nathaniel Johnson gruyere.emmentaler@gmail.com

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1776attorney 8 months ago

Nathaniel

Thanks for your added comments.

I would suggest that our brick streets are extremely cost-effective. More so than concrete and asphalt. When was the last time the brick streets required some kind of scheduled, expensive repair?

The bricks streets are over 100 years old. Brick surfaces last more than 100 years. Snow, ice, sand and salt rarely effect them. During those same 100 years you can imagine that had these streets been concrete or asphalt, they would have been replaced 5 or 6 times by now at considerable cost.

What needs to be refurbished now with the brick streets is the underneath foundation or supporting, leveling bedrock. You pull the bricks up, lay a new, level support foundation, and relay the bricks in place.

Considering that taxpayers haven't paid for this repair in 100+ years, the cost of doing so now would be an expense that would not be needed for another 100 years. You cannot ask for a better return on an investment.

Read the history of these brick streets and who, how and when they were installed and it's a fascinating story and plus for the city.

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puck 8 months ago

Agree, attorney... The same people who want to tear out brick streets and replace with asphalt are often the same people who tear out original wood windows and replace with vinyl. Do your research. ;)

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olsoothsayer 8 months ago

My guess is the council went for an independent analysis of the streets in order for the results to have some sort of credibility. If the same analysis were performed by city staff (who aren't licensed engineers), I think many people, perhaps even 1776attorney, would find just as much fault with the results, if not more.

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Nathaniel Johnson 8 months ago

Upon very casual research it does seem that brick streets are cheaper to maintain. Most of the evidence was anecdotal but I guess there isn't a great call for a huge study since not many brick roads are going in these days. I will say that I HATE maintaining my brick walk and am gradually letting the grass consume it. Some later homeowner can curse my lack of historical respect.

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Stacy Napier 8 months ago

To top if off you paid some guy to do a study then he could not be at the meeting to explain the study? How about you put that in the contract to begin with or you get a discount in the price.

They paid $377 dollars a mile to get the street condition? Is this on a map, and on the city website like it is in Lawrence or other cities?

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Goldie 8 months ago

I guess my question is does the study of "streets" include curbing and guttering ? If you're just looking at the street surface itself I think the streets are probably comparable ( take away the pet paving project by JRHS and the gravel road STILL on Newton St.) Should the study take into account curbing and guttering the money spent for the study was a complete waste as South of 56 is at best lacking. I would also further venture to guess sidewalks ( or lack thereof ) did not factor into the equation.

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NEDemon 8 months ago

I think the lack of quality sidewalks in Baldwin is a real concern for safety for all the individuals that walk or run everynight and have to walk or run in the streets. The sidewalks on west high street are horrible, there are no sidewalks on 11th street. Also there is no safe walking area that connects High Street over to the grade schools either. The kids that live over by the Depot area have no clear way to walk or ride bikes to school. Its pretty clear that the city doesn't think ahead very well.

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1776attorney 8 months ago

NEDemon.

It's not that they don't plan ahead. It's that they do not care. They are biased towards the north of Highway 56 neighborhoods. They are beholden to the developer(s), the school district, and the homeowners in the north.

We have some city government and school board representatives that own homes in these areas. These new Baldwinites tend to be of higher incomes.

In addition, the city government mistakenly believes that additional development is destined for these areas in the near future (not realizing that most of the available land is locked out or not for sale. I know this for a fact).

The city will continue to neglect and ignore the south of Highway 56 neighborhoods until the voters put a stop to it. Twenty years ago these kind of things would not happen. Our city council and mayor were long time residents with an understanding of the city and populous. Today's government leaders are mostly newbies with little generational anchoring to the community. Many of them tend to be very out of touch and self-serving.

The "study" mentioned above is nothing more than the city leaders trying to justify their position on the south of Highway 56 streets (sidewalks, gutters, sewers, etc.). The gall is that they used taxpayer money to fool the taxpayers.

Another couple of election cycles and with education and awareness, I believe voters will remove the bad apples and replace them with newer, more responsible and responsive leaders.

I hear from many voters and not one is happy with the street, lighting, sidewalk, gutter and sewage issues in the south Highway 56 neighborhoods. Your observation about the safety of walking in these areas is shared by most of us.

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straightforward 8 months ago

This is such an absurd post. Please tell me how long someone has to live in Baldwin to be worthy of serving on the city council or school board. We need to get that written into their bylaws.

Apparently there must be a lot of ignorant Baldwinites because they keep electing these dang out-of-towners... Maybe all these unhappy voters you speak of should band together and find candidates who agree with you. Then the Baldwinites can take back their city.

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Stacy Napier 8 months ago

I have to agree partly with this thought. This paragraph says it all

'The council also approved a $121,880 contract with Killough Construction for this year’s asphalt resurfacing work. The company is to mill and overlay Firetree Avenue, Flame Way and Blaze Boulevard. Overlay only is planned for Quayle, Eisenhower and Washington streets.'

Why would one spend money on Firetree, Flame Way and Blaze when we have streets to the south that are older and were not overlaid long before those streets were built?

Demon you mention 11th street sidewalks. Well the city just spent a lot of money to replace the sewer line under that street but even though the street was completely tore up nothing was done to add curb or sidewalks there. One would think if you were doing major construction on a main thoroughfare you would invest the extra money to make the entire project up to current standards, but that was not even considered. We did pay to have new signage at the entrance to our city though. A big quality of life boost for all of us!

Attorney. The problem with your theory is there is no one to run for the office to remove those apples.

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