With street conditions among the most-noticed issues in Robinson, city officials are eyeing the possibility of a new three-year, $4.3 million street program to start addressing streets in poor or unacceptable conditions.
The plan would cover a portion of the 47.5 miles, or about 60 percent of the city’s street network, in need of repair, thus making it one of the city’s top priorities, City Manager Craig Lemin said and city documents confirm. But all of that mileage wouldn’t be addressed at once and the precise amount of mileage expected to be covered during those three years hasn’t yet been determined, Lemin said.
“It will depend on the street selected and what type of work,” Lemin said. “A reclaimed street costs less than a reconstructed street. The hope is to stretch the funds we have as far as possible. We will be working over the next couple of years to come up with a long-term funding plan, but we’re not there yet. We want to get started with the funds we have as the costs keep going up.”
The plan is one preliminary step toward planning something more long-term, but a program proposed at the same pace set for the first three years could be costly, he said.
If the city were to continue to repair the remainder of the streets in need of work after the first three years, and do the repairs at the same pace, it would cost $3 million per year over 10 years to complete the 47.5 miles of roadway that needs to be fixed. The $3 million per year would account for half of the city’s general fund annual budget.
That cost would not include routine maintenance and preventative maintenance for the remaining miles, according to city documents.
That demonstrates the challenge moving forward and indicates the repairs to all the necessary roads would probably take longer than 10 years, making it critical to stretch current funds as far as possible before costs increase too much, Lemin said.
“The longer we wait, the less we can do,” Lemin said. “So we don’t want to hold up doing what we can now while we come up with a long-term funding plan. We will be working to fund the preventative maintenance portion starting with the next budget.”
The city council asked city staff to identify available funding, firm up pricing and prioritize streets, among other details during the November presentation, and isn’t expected to make a final decision on the proposed plan until mid-March, Lemin said.
Lemin, who has been with the city for about six months and who was hired to come up with a plan addressing Robinson’s road issues, said the proposal is in response to how Robinson’s existing streets were not originally constructed with a proper base structure and were in constant need of repairs. The city stopped operating its current street program last year before Lemin was hired, he said.
“They were trying to do it using city staff and renting equipment,” Lemin said. “Most of the guys that have worked with the city weren’t trained to do that kind of work, they weren’t experienced in that equipment. So, if you’re out there doing work and learning it at the same time, you start getting into issues about the quality of work being done, correctly and uniformly, things like that. So, there were a lot of hiccups and problems in the process.”
A 2013 inventory of street sections done by the city ranks all 80.1 miles of Robinson streets into six categories, and shows how much of the city needs an overhaul, according to city documents:
Category 1 — brand new streets in excellent shape, 1-2 years old — 5.4 percent or 4.3 miles.
Category 2 — streets 3-5 years old with minor cracks, great condition — 9.1 percent or 7.3 miles.
Category 3 — widespread small cracks, sealing required, minor ponding — 26.2 percent or 21 miles.
Category 4 — significant crack openings, potential resurfacing — 29.9 percent or 24 miles.
Category 5 — major crack opened, unacceptable driving conditions — 11.4 percent or 9.1 miles.
Category 6 — non-existing asphalt, gravel, needs to be removed or replaced — 17.9 percent or 14.4 miles.
The funds would mostly be dedicated to streets that fall between categories 4 and 6. City staff is expected to do another inventory before the final vote and Lemin said the new program will make sure the same issues don’t happen again.
“What we’re trying to do is not just address those streets in very poor condition, but implementing a program across the spectrum that allows us to keep the streets that are in decent condition in decent condition, so we don’t just keep adding to the list of very poor streets,” Lemin said.
Initially, he is recommending the city and street department focus on the maintenance and some of the preparation for the streets, he said. The actual street work, reconstruction or reclamation, would be done by hired, skilled contractors.
While there might be some additional cost for outsourcing in the short term, in the long term Lemin said he doesn’t think the city would save much by doing the work internally.
High utility rates
With residents already dealing with high utility rates, city staff didn’t want to turn around and push property taxes higher to pay for more roads and water line and sewer line repairs, Lemin said. Any water or sewer line replacements would be paid by utility bond funds and is estimated to cost $1.3 million, he said.
“What we’re trying to emphasize is that you can’t ignore everything else to fix the really bad stuff. If you fix a mile on a bad street and during that same time, another mile goes bad, you’re not getting anywhere,” Lemin said. “You’ve got to work it from both ends. You have to maintain the stuff that’s of reasonable quality, but you have to address these other things. And it costs money, and taxpayers want to keep taxes low, and I understand that.”
Lifelong Robinson resident Cameron Whyburn said the plan is restoring his faith in the city manager position and city council. He attends most of the city council meetings, and said the plan might be the best option to dig the city out of a spending hole created by previous issues.
“Long term, it will be good, as long as they bring someone in who actually can build a road,” Whyburn said. “We do not have anyone qualified right now at the city to build one. Everyone knows we have the worst roads in Central Texas. It’s always been a joke around this city, but if they’re not done right, we will just be worse off than before.”
The proposed plan is just a starting point for the city council, and the council wants to remain open to other possible solutions, Lemin said. That flexibility is important, as new technology comes along and the economy changes throughout the next 10 years, he said.
If the program is approved, the city will begin bidding out street projects to have construction started by May and wrapped up by fall before the weather becomes too cold, he said.
“The biggest things folks here need to know is we are working on something,” Lemin said. “They had something going on. It was problematic. It got stopped. It’s been in a hold, and they need to know we’re working on a bigger-picture project. We’re not just working on how do we fix these streets, but how do we keep these other streets that are still in decent condition.”
A 2013 inventory of street sections done by Robinson city officials ranks all 80.1 miles of Robinson streets into six categories, and shows how much of the city needs an overhaul:
• Category 1 - Brand new streets in excellent shape, 1-2 years old - 5.4 percent or 4.3 miles
• Category 2 - Streets 3-5 years old with minor cracks, great condition - 9.1 percent or 7.3 miles
• Category 3 - Widespread small cracks, sealing required, minor ponding - 26.2 percent or 21 miles
• Category 4 - Significant crack openings, potential resurfacing - 29.9 percent or 24 miles
• Category 5 - Major crack opened, unacceptable driving conditions - 11.4 percent or 9.1 miles
• Category 6 - Non-existent asphalt, gravel, needs to be removed or replaced - 17.9 percent or 14.4 miles
Source: Robinson city documents