City council members Tuesday reviewed the city’s 2019-2020 streets improvement plan and asked city staff to also develop a streets maintenance plan.
Matt Evans, city utilities director, presented the streets improvement plan for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 to the council during its special noon meeting Tuesday.
Evans, who said the plan had formerly been called the paving plan, told council members, “It’s now going to be called the streets improvement plan because it doesn’t just include paving, it also includes water, wastewater and gas.”
Councilwoman Diana Bejarano Salgado asked about problems with manholes on some city streets, and Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano said citizens want “a properly paved street, done right the first time.”
“So this list is only inclusive of only where you’re going to move pipe or fix pipe? If they don’t need the water work or the gas work, we’re not going to pave any of those other streets?” Councilman Rowland Garza asked.
“We’re limited by budget, so we can pave outside of this list, however, we would rather follow anything that needs pipe,” Evans replied.
Garza then asked for a list of streets that did not need underground infrastructure work that would be slated for paving in the coming year.
“This (list) is inclusive of everything, and once again, we are limited by (the) budget, so if it’s a choice between a road where we’re not going to do infrastructure work. . . If we have an undersized pipe that we may need to do next fiscal year, we’re not going to pave it now, because then we’re going to have to tear up a newly-paved road, so we’d rather go on top of newer infrastructure instead of paving roads that may need to be paved but the lines under them also need to be replaced,” Evans replied.
“I get it, but that road’s just going to get worse,” Garza said.
He added it was his understanding there was money left over from certificates of obligation issued in past years available for street improvements.
“I have a question along the lines of what Councilman Garza said about the streets that are not in dire need of the sub-surface infrastructure work. Is there a process to review and decide which streets maybe get a temporary cap on them because you know you’re going to be fully repaving them in the next two to three years?” Councilman Jim DeReus asked.
Evans said while he agreed with De Reus there were streets that needed a temporary fix, he added there was no formal process in place to review them.
“We’re limited, a little bit, but it’s something that we can look into,” he said.
“Going back to the beginning, one of the most expensive parts of the entire process is mobilization, and if it takes a full day to mobilize, then a full day to pave and a full day to de-mobilize, then go get back on the list, it’s a juggling act, but it’s something we can definitely take a look at,” Evans said.
De Reus said he understood it made sense to do the underground infrastructure first, then pave, but added, “We know there are so many streets that are not going to be repaved for years because they – relatively recently – had work done based off of this construct, that really need to get repaved, even if it’s a temporary thing that’s only going to last a couple of years, just to smooth it out.”
“I agree with you, and it’s something that we can look at more in-depth,” Evans replied.
“Is there some type of a maintenance plan that every few years, the streets, before they deteriorate, we do an overlay or a sealcoat?” Salgado asked.
“We can. I don’t know if it’s a formal process,” Evans said.
Emiterio Salinas, superintendent of the city’s streets and drainage department, said staff could put together a sealcoat program.
“The way it’s been going, we’ve been using mostly all that money that’s allocated for paving on that project only, where they remove and replace water and sewer lines, so we don’t have enough money to do some sealcoats,” Salinas told the council.
“The streets are in the shape that they’re in because for so many years, nothing was ever done, so maybe we need to start allocating some money, so there can be some . . . kind of maintenance plan; every year do a couple of streets before they start deteriorating to the point where you have to get in there and spend three times as much,” Salgado said.
Salinas said the streets department has a list of streets “that could use” sealcoating.
“But we need money, allocated for that purpose,” he added.
“I wouldn’t mind taking a look at something like that,” Salgado said.
“Council, it’s definitely a balancing act between the funding we have versus the needs that are out there, with the water lines that are being replaced and then paving over it versus the other ones. I would say, one option, if it’s a priority to the council and the community, would be an added fee on the utility bill designated solely for street improvements. That’s a possibility and an option,” City Manager Matt Wojnowski said.
“Our streets definitely need to be one of the priorities,” Salgado said.
Garza said he believed the entire issue is one that should have been reviewed during the budget planning process.
“I agree with Councilwoman Salgado that it needs to be a priority and that it’s a balancing act, but one thing most citizens have in common is that they’re going to travel our streets,” Garza said.
He noted the city is planning to improve 9.4 miles in the coming fiscal year.
“There are some neighborhoods that really stand out, particularly the one behind the hospital, Marshall Smith Drive, Long Avenue; some of the neighborhoods in the Buena Vista area, Pauline Drive, Orbit Street, and I’m sure council knows of other streets.
“I think the underlying issue is, while we appreciate you taking the initiative to replace the outdated piping and infrastructure, the citizens of Del Rio also deserve a maintenance plan, and I think that’s pretty much understood, to develop this plan to ensure we do maintain what we have,” Lozano said.
Lozano then looked at the city manager and said, “So I think it’s understood by the city manager to implement this maintenance plan and come back with possible ways to fund it?”
Wojnowski indicated he understood. On Monday, a representative for the city manager’s office said a maintenance plan is being developed.
The council took no formal action to accept the plan or to direct staff by vote to develop a maintenance plan.