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Council approves road improvement, maintenance plan

A road improvement and maintenance portion of a five year capital improvement plan was approved by the Pagosa Springs Town Council Tuesday night, signaling a structured approach to capital improvement projects.

The plan was the result of several month’s work by a consulting firm hired by the town last summer. The firm, Schmueser Gordon Meyer (SGM) was retained by the town after the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) offered the town a grant to fund the project.

SGM representative Jerry Burgess presented the road improvement plan, explaining that the emphasis in the first year was improving or maintaining roads not in dire need of repair, the rationale being it is more cost effective to maintain good roads than to repave roads in poor condition.

“I don’t believe it to be overly aggressive,” Burgess said, “it’s an achievable plan.”

“More complicated projects are later in the plan,” Burgess said, adding that putting those projects off for later years would allow the town to pursue potential grant funding to help offset the expense of those projects.

According to the five year plan, the town will be looking at spending about $1.7 million over the next five years with annual costs anywhere between $250,000 and $450,000. In total, the town would be maintaining, improving or repaving about five miles of road in town.

Work on streets would involve chip or slurry treatments for 43 percent of the streets, 26 percent would get milled with new pavement, 16 percent would need entire reconstruction and 15 percent would require structural overlay with two inches of asphalt.

In the 2010 plan, Village Drive would get the most work; from North Pagosa Boulevard to Eaton Drive, crews will provide structural overlay and crack seal or subgrade stabilization (with about 15-percent structural repair) at an estimated cost of $48,651; from Eaton Drive to Talisman Drive, crews will chip seal (with fog seal) at an estimated cost of $6,985; and from Talisman Drive to Pinon Causeway, crews will chip seal at an estimated cost of $10,469, for a total estimated cost of $66,105.

Council member Stan Holt asked why Village Drive was on the 2010 roster. “It’s not that old,” he said. “How come it comes up so soon?”

“We’ve tried to identify roads that were in need of preventative maintenance,” Burgess responded.

Another proposed project for 2010, Lewis Street between North 1st and North 2nd streets, was met with some opposition from council due to the fact that other portions of Lewis Street were more travelled and in more need of repair. Council member Shari Pierce said she believes the priorities on Lewis Street should be reversed.

“Lewis Street between fourth and third gets much more traffic, it’s right behind the junior high school,” she said.

“I would have to agree with trustee Pierce,” said council member Darrell Cotton, “in reversing the order on Lewis Street.”

Burgess stated that the order had been set up with eye on expenses but that reversing the order would not be an issue other than the cost of those projects. Between 1st and 4th streets, Lewis Street repairs would amount to an estimated cost of $189,269, with most of those dollars spent on reconstruction; between 4th and 3rd streets, Lewis Street would require reconstruction with a cost of $242,618.

Town Manager David Mitchem conceded that the 2010 budget for road capital improvements would be about $85,000 shy of the money required to fund the presented iteration of the plan; switching the Lewis Street projects means that the budget would be short $170,000 for 2010 road capital improvements.

Addressing the budget shortfall, Mitchem assured council that the town could afford the projects saying, “Funds can be drawn from elsewhere.”

However, council member Mark Weiler was reluctant to approve the plan based on uncertainties in funding. “In order for me to make an informed decision,” he said, “we need to make some adjustments to the budget as far as capital expenditures, is that correct?”

Mitchem replied that Weiler was indeed correct, but stated that staff was prepared to go back over the 2010 budget in order to satisfy those expenditures, with a resolution for a budget amendment ready by the Jan. 21 mid-month meeting.

Confident that the necessary budget adjustments would be made, Cotton made a motion to accept the plan — with the revision of reversing the order of Lewis Street improvements — and with the understanding that a budget amendment would reflect adequate funding for the projects.

“If we wait until 2014 to see if we have the money, we won’t go anywhere,” Cotton explained, unwilling to table the matter. “I don’t think we’ll ever have it nailed down that tight.”

Council agreed with Cotton, approving the motion with a 5-1 vote, with Weiler opposing.

Other elements of a five year capital improvement plan were discussed, but not voted on, with Burgess explaining that those aspects of the plan would be brought before council in the future. Those other priorities will be reported in next week’s edition of The SUN.

Later in the meeting, James Dickhoff presented several other projects that, while contingent on grants or CDOT approval, could also be in the works for 2010. Dickhoff stated that the planning department had submitted a letter to CDOT requesting a left turn arrow in the westbound lane of U.S. 160 at the Hot Springs Boulevard intersection. Also, Dickhoff reported that CDOT had received the town’s application for a Safe Routes to School grant, which would, if approved, provide sidewalks along portions of South Eighth Street, all of San Juan Street Alley to 10th Street with a crosswalk and further sidewalks constructed to the elementary school. Dickhoff stated that the town should hear about grant approval by August and would most likely know about the left turn arrow by early summer, at the latest.