McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

October 13, 2013

City council hits bumps on approving streets projects list

McALESTER — My street is worse than your street.

No, it isn’t.

Yes, it is.

McAlester city councilors had a sometimes bumpy discussion involving city streets during a special workshop held Thursday evening at City Hall.

The meeting didn’t call for any action or votes. It had been called as a workshop to discuss the city’s Streets Reconstruction Program and its Capital Improvements Plan.

After a sometimes spirited discussion, city councilors agreed to call another special roads meeting, this time set for 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 24. That will leave open the opportunity for the council to have further discussion and get more input before casting a final vote on a proposed road package, probably in November.

City Engineer John Modzelewski said he had originally intended to have an item ready to present to the council for a vote during the council’s next regular city council meeting.

That item would be the list of proposed streets projects following an election by city voters in May and last November. Voters approved refinancing of an existing bond to help finance the project.

However, after voters approved the proposal in May they were told the city would not be able to do the $12 million in projects which city officials had touted prior to the election.

Instead, the city’s bond adviser — citing things such as a declining sales tax base in the city — said in June the city could expect to get around $7.8 million for the streets project.

That meant the city had to pare down the list of proposed projects from the nine originally planned for the CIP projects.

The new list presented by Modzelewski now has seven street projects and has a projected total price tag of $13,049,000. That means, unless something changes, the city will expend its $7.8 million before all seven projects are completed.

Portions of streets included on the list presented by Modzelewski for inclusion in the street project include South Avenue, Washington Avenue, A Street, Sixth Street, another portion of Sixth Street, Seventeenth Street and Second Street.

However, several city councilors and Mayor Steve Harrison let it be known during the workshop they want more information before voting to approve the projects.

“Why do we have to decide in two weeks?” Harrison asked.

Ward 5 Buddy Councilor asked why there were no projects planned in Ward, 5, or in Ward 4, represented by Robert Karr.

“When Randy Green was the city manager, he did something in every ward,” Garvin said.

Are you telling me  that every street in Fifth Ward is in good shape, Garvin asked.

Modzelewski said yes, according to the scoring system used on arterial streets, referring to connector streets which are ordinarily the first to be cleared during a heavy snow event, for example.

Meanwhile, Ward 3 Councilor Travis Read objected to Washington Avenue being placed higher on the list than Second Street.

“I don’t want to make it look like a ward thing,” Read said, then referred to the rough condition of Second Street, between South Street and Comanche Avenue.

Ward 2 Councilor John Titsworth said “Second Street is not an arterial street.”

“It is an arterial street,” Read said, saying many drivers take it to bypass traffic signals on Main Street. He said it probably has less traffic now because it is in such bad shape.

Titsworth noted that the requirements are that all of the street projects be completed in two years anyway. What does it matter which ones are completed first, he asked?

“A two-year period, it’s not that big of a deal to me,” Titsworth said.

“It is if you drive it,” Read replied.

Mayor Harrison said that Washington Avenue, heading east toward Carl Albert Parkway, also needs some work.

Read responded with “It’s just a short cut to Tandy Town.”

“I would be glad to have that section of Washington” in Ward 3, Read said.

When Harrison maintained that Washington Avenue headed east is in need of major work, Read said “You don’t drive it every day.”

Harrison had a response.

“I drive it every day. It’s a bad street,” Harrison shot back.

Ward 5 Councilor Buddy Garvin noted there’s been a lot of talk about proposed work on city streets.

“Then reality sets in,” Garvin said. “Where’s the manpower?”

Garvin said he’s not seen the city’s Durapatcher or Gradall equipment at work on city streets as much as he’d like.

“It leaves here. It goes to Kinkead Hills and it comes back,” Garvin said.

In his opinion, the city doesn’t have enough manpower to work on city streets as needed, Garvin said.

The city plans to have outside companies do the work on the major projects.

Modzelewski said the projects were not locked in at this point.

“The purpose of the workshop is to have this discussion now,” Modzelewski said, referring to discussions before the matter comes up for a formal vote during a future meeting of the city council.

Modzelewski said his plans call for work to begin first on the Seventeenth Street project because it can be started the quickest, although he does not plan to wait until one street project ends before starting another project on a different street.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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