April 18, 2014

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Lorain workers hired after passage of Issue 13 patching city’s potholes

LORAIN — Working with longtime Street Department employee Danny Wyatt, new workers Tim Shinsky and Joseph Taylor patched a pothole on Hickory Hill Avenue on Thursday within 10 minutes of arriving.

On Lorain’s notoriously bumpy roads, the department’s pothole-patching crew has its work cut out for it. Or rutted out.

But voters have made the task a little easier. The passage of Issue 13 in November means Shinsky, Taylor and Wyatt have more time for patching. Issue 13 was a permanent 0.5 percent income tax hike raising $5.3 million annually and costs a worker earning $50,000 annually an additional $250 yearly.

Much of the money will go for road repairs as well as about $250,000 to hire five workers and resurrect the Parks and Recreation Department. Lorain — which slashed its workforce from about 600 workers to approximately 450 over the last decade due to shrinking revenue — had to merge the Parks and Recreation Department with the Street Department several years ago.

Street Department workers were responsible for the maintenance of Lorain’s 56 parks in addition to other duties. But with the tax increase, Street Department workers can primarily focus on infrastructure improvements and maintenance. And by hiring workers at lower starting salaries — laborers like Shinsky and Taylor earn about $35,000 annually — Lorain was able to hire more workers to fill vacant positions of higher paid workers who recently retired.

The Street Department has increased from 14 workers to 21 workers in the last six months. Three workers were responsible for all pothole repairs last year in addition to other responsibilities. Hal Kendrick, public property manager, said six to eight workers now patch potholes in addition to other responsibilities, which include concrete repairs, street sweeping, trash removal and tree cutting.

While the crew was patching the pothole, Kendrick tried to smooth things over with Hickory Hill resident Chuck Manzo. Manzo said the street, on the west side off Tower Boulevard, needs to be completely resurfaced. A “hot mix” patch, which consists of asphalt, usually lasts about a year.

Manzo, a 71-year-old retired concrete contractor and cement finisher, said patching won’t work on Hickory Hill because the street is too decayed.

“It needs to be torn out and redone,” Manzo said. “It’s always a temporary fix. Two days from now when the traffic comes through and beats out these patches they’re putting in now, you’re back to the same thing.”

Kendrick said which streets get resurfaced first depends on their condition and traffic volume. Workers use about six tons of asphalt per day per truck and use two trucks. They are dependent on the availability of asphalt, which Kendrick said isn’t always available. He said Lorain is considering buying a

DuraPatcher, a machine that sprays an emulsion/aggregate mix rather than asphalt, to make repairs last longer.

Kendrick said pothole repairs are primarily done in response to resident complaints. Most are done between April and November.

“Prime time for potholes is right now,” Kendrick said. “We’re getting to them the best we can.”

Despite getting an earful from Manzo, Shinsky and Taylor said they were enthusiastic about their jobs. Shinsky said he likes making a positive difference in residents’ lives.

“It might not be a big difference, but boy, when you’re coming home from work or after school and you don’t have to dodge those potholes, it’s a little bit better day,” Shinksky said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.