By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Mayor Terry Stocker says he doesn’t know what the city will do if the 3-mill, five-year additional property-tax levy for road resurfacing and maintenance doesn’t make it past the May 6 ballot.
Almost a year ago, a roadway-condition-rating analysis produced by MS Consultants of Youngstown revealed that 78 of the city’s asphalt streets, or more than half of the 142 evaluated, need to be resurfaced within the next four years. Of those 78 streets, 44 will need resurfacing within the next one to two years.
Their enduring “one of the worst winters in the history of the area” didn’t help, Stocker added.
“It’s not going to go away,” said Stocker, referring to the problem of the city’s aging and deteriorating roads. “I don’t think anybody wants streets that are unsafe to drive on, ... but there’s no magic wand [to fix them].”
The estimated cost of resurfacing the city’s roads over the next 10 years is between $6 million and $7 million, according to recent MS Consultants estimates.
Though the city has received grants and other aid to address this problem in the past, these funding sources have dried up and also have fallen victim to increased competition. Plus, the cost to resurface roads has tripled in the past decade.
The city’s general fund alone also can’t support any major road-resurfacing efforts and neither could increasing the license-plate tax to the maximum amount permitted by state law — an early suggestion. The latter source would generate only about $43,000 each year, or enough to resurface one-third of a mile.
With 73 miles of roadway within the city limits, it just wasn’t a viable option, Stocker said.
The levy, however, would generate $318,784 annually, allowing the city to resurface between 25 and 30 percent of its roads within the next five years. It would cost a homeowner with a $100,000 house $105 per year, or $8.75 per month.
This revenue would be used solely for road resurfacing and maintenance projects in the city’s four wards, with much of it earmarked for matching funds for grants. Since the city wouldn’t receive any of the money generated by the levy until next year, though, deciding now which streets would be targeted first is “kind of premature,” Stocker said.
He added that though the city’s street department recently submitted a list of streets in critical condition, “the same streets that look OK today most likely aren’t going to be like that at this time next year.”
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Stocker said. “We’re going to end up having a greater, more-serious problem” if something isn’t done soon.
Ed Wildes, the city’s safety-service director, agreed, explaining that a lot of the city’s roads are in bad shape. Wildes noted that the city hasn’t instituted any taxes or levies since 1983 but it simply doesn’t have the funds necessary to address the roads.
A levy might be the only option — and its passage is “crucial.”
“If the people want decent and safe roads to drive on, if they want to maintain their high property values in the city, it’s very important for them to pass this levy,” Wildes said.