December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria has limited funds to repair city roads after harsh winter

Bell Avenue is just one of the many roads in Elyria in need of repair after an especially harsh winter. PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA MEADOWS

Bell Avenue is just one of the many roads in Elyria in need of repair after an especially harsh winter. PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA MEADOWS

ELYRIA — The limited amount of money the city has available to fix its pothole-pocked roads this summer is less than the city spent to fix a single road last year.

This year, the city’s road resurfacing program has just a little more than $24,000 available for road projects, said city Finance Director Ted Pileski.

The fate of the 2014 road repair program is up in the air while city officials try to cobble together more money.

“Right now, there are a lot of attempts to get funding from other sources to fund the street resurfacing program,” said city Engineer Tim Ujvari. “Without a doubt, we need more money to get things done and are trying to tap into whatever funding is available.”

City Council members, who fought hard in 2013 to bump up the road resurfacing program with some of the proceeds from the city’s insurance windfall, weren’t thrilled. They know the $500,000 infusion of last year won’t be available this year.

Last year’s total budget was $738,000. In 2012, there was $240,000 available.

“Wow. We have to figure out something,” said Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large. “Our streets have taken a beating this year. It’s just pitiful.”

Pileski’s math Monday night was a clear lesson in subtraction.

The city uses the Muni Motor Vehicle Fund, accumulated from license plate fees, to resurface roads each year.

The fund starts out hefty with upward of $1 million. But deductions have pretty much eaten up the entire six-figure sum.

Where is the money going?

As drivers travel state Route 57, few probably realize the smooth road they are driving on got that way at the expense of smaller roads for years to come.

Pileski offered a breakdown of the Muni Motor Vehicle Fund to explain why the road resurfacing program is in jeopardy this year. About $470,000 is used to pay the debt on the 57 project and another $98,000, the local share, on other larger projects.

“Yes, unfortunately that is the number for right now,” Pileski said of the remaining $24,293. “The only fund that can legally transfer monies into the Muni Motor Vehicle Fund is the general fund and due to the cuts to the Local Government Fund and the repeal of the estate tax, which amounts to a $1.8 million loss of revenue to the general fund every year, we are quite limited as to how much we can transfer out of the general fund.”

This winter — with its subzero temperatures and above-average snowfall — also has been exceptionally harsh on Elyria. Pileski said any money that would have been available to prop up resurfacing work has been proposed for other weather-related use, such as salt purchases and overtime for snow plow drivers.

The 2014 budget — proposed this week and up for a vote Monday — proposes a $315,000 transfer into the Street Construction Maintenance and Repair Fund for operating expenses in the Traffic Lights Department and the Street Department, which would include wages, overtime, benefits and operating supplies.

An additional $250,000 transfer to the State Highway Fund is needed to pay for road salt.

Pileski called this season a “budget busting” winter.

Work to come

The fate of the city’s resurfacing work may be in question, but orange barrels will dot Elyria streets this year.

A number of water and sewer projects are in the works, which will result in some streets getting a facelift as workers put roads back together. In addition, Ujvari said work on the Second and Third street bridges will be completed with work to start in June.

It’s a new project that sprung up after it was discovered that bearings on the bridge were beginning to fail. The faulty bearings, right where the bridge meets the road, are putting stress on the bridge deck.

Although it comes at a price tag of $160,000 that normally would have gone to road projects, Ujvari said the fix is either $160,000 for this year or more than $1 million once the bridge begins to fail.

Ujvari said while a fix is being working out with the resurfacing program, the Street Department will continue to do patch work and fix potholes with cold patch until the weather changes and with hot asphalt once the temperatures increase.

“This has been a tremendously hard winter. We are not giving up on getting the roads in better conditions,” he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

A HOLE IN THE REPAIR BUDGET

Amount available to spend: $1,011,670

Budgeted expenditures:

  • Money for operations and maintenance, $2,900
  • Money appropriated for Route 57 debt, $470,376
  • Money needed to close out 2013 projects, $105,829
  • Local share of Lake Avenue Issue 2 project, $8,272
  • Local share of Abbe Road North widening, $90,000
  • Crack Sealing Program, $50,000
  • City portion of ODOT work on U.S. Route 20, $100,000
  • Work to bridges on Second and Third streets, $160,000

Total available for 2014 street resurfacing $24,293