One of the most common citizen requests is street improvements or repairs, and the City of Sedalia has listened, completing some type of improvement on 92 percent of city-maintained streets in the last eight years.
While those improvements could range from something as small as a pot hole to mill and overlay work, the last two years have been recording breaking for the Street Department, using a $1 million budget to improve city streets. That large amount of funding has been largely influenced by citizen requests, said City Administrator Gary Edwards, and that amount of money is largely responsible for how many streets have been improved in less than a decade.
“We put intentionally a record amount of money in street maintenance, for regular small maintenance and major maintenance,” he said. “… For that period of time, I can’t say it’s unusual; it’s something we’re certainly trying to stay on top of and keep putting resources into streets because on the annual survey, street needs always ranks high as far as citizen requests for improvements.
“Also in the survey, over the past three years, streets are improving each year as far as the number of people rating streets fair to excellent. It gets higher each year, which is a reflection of the additional resources — dollars — we have put into the budget for streets for the last two years.”
The City of Sedalia is responsible for maintaining 169 miles of roads. Public Works Project Manager Devin Lake said there is a rating system to determine which of those streets will be repaired each year.
“We have a rating system where we rate our roads based on condition,” she said. “If we do a mill and overlay one year, a few years later we’ll do a chip and seal to make sure we’re maintaining the roads; that’s the key to good roads is maintaining the ones that are in good shape rather than throwing money at the ones that have already failed.”
While the rating system determines which roads will receive improvements, the type of improvement is typically budget-driven, Lake said.
“You get farther if you do work in-house than hire something out, so we pick roads we know are good candidates for chip and seal and keep them in-house to save money and it’s a cheaper application than an asphalt or concrete job,” she explained. “We try to stay mostly on arterial routes, major roadways to dedicate the heavy dollars to, like Grand, Engineer, 24th. The main roads in Sedalia we dedicate more to asphalt than chip and seal to keep them maintained.”
According to information provided by Lake, in 2015, about 18.5 percent of city-maintained roadways saw some type of improvement. For a cost of $452,303.38, 27.3 miles of roads were improved with new chip seal. A two-inch mill and overlay was done on 2.84 miles of roads, costing $527,093.78.
Varking is “a two-inch overlay of asphalt that we do internally. The actual two-inch overlay is contracted out, varking is done in-house. We’re not near as efficient at it, so we don’t do very much of it,” Lake said. Varking accounted for 1.13 miles, costing $101,970.34.
Those numbers are fairly consistent with the previous seven years, along with other improvements such as intersection improvements and parking lot repaving.
“Our main focus for the last five or six years has been get as much cover on streets as you possibly can to keep them from getting any worse than they already were,” Lake said. “It’s not necessarily an effective way of addressing street concerns because a lot need to be rebuilt and that costs a lot of money; until we have a higher budget we can’t fix roads how they should be fixed.
“Because we do so much chip seal and it’s cost effective, we can get a lot done. This year, that’s a lot of coverage done just in one season. Typically a good street plan for a city our size would be 20 years — you would get a new street every 20 years, but that’s completely unrealistic because budgets don’t allow for that, so we do the best we can with what we have to maintain what we have.”
A tiny amount of concrete rebuild took place this year — only .06 miles of road saw that type of improvement and that was on Ohio Avenue as part of the Streetscape Phase IIIa project. The entire streetscape project, including the gateway and other streetscape elements, cost $759,805.58, but Lake emphasized the city only paid 20 percent of that bill; the rest was covered by grants.
That streetscape project cost shows just how expensive completely replacing a concrete road can be for the city, which is why most improvements include chip seal or mill and overlay, Lake said. She said a two-inch mill and overlay, which means crews mill off two inches of the road and put asphalt on top, is “as close as you can get to rebuilding a road minus digging it up.”
The 2016-17 budget has not been finalized yet, so a final plan for street improvements in 2016 has not been made.
“We’ll see how council responds to the issue of streets when that comes up on the agenda (during the January planning session),” Edwards said. “And we’ll see what the budget is able to afford this year. The past few years have been high so we’ll see if the budget can continue to support that; it will be a year by year thing as far as what the budget can support.”
However, Lake said unless the Street Department budget gets much larger, complete rebuilds aren’t an option.
“If we were to get a larger amount — like $5 million — we’d probably start looking at roads that really do need rebuilt,” she said. “When you only get $1 million, you’re really just putting as much of a band-aid on it as you can to keep it best you can until you do get money to rebuild it.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.