By EMMALEE C. TORISK
After members of city council’s general improvements committee meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, they’ll hand over discussion of a potential five-year, 3-mill levy that is specific to street resurfacing to the finance and legislation committee.
From that point, the latter committee will decide whether to present the issue to city council as a whole at its Jan. 22 regular meeting, and to request a vote to place the levy — which would generate $318,784 annually — on the May 6 ballot.
The proposed property-tax levy would cost the average homeowner with a $100,000 house $105 per year, or $8.75 per month, said Mayor Terry Stocker.
Councilwoman Carol A. Crytzer, D-2nd and member of the general improvements committee, said she and other council members don’t want to impose another tax on residents, but also feel it’s their duty to present them with the chance to decide on the issue.
“If we don’t give them the opportunity to vote, if we don’t put a levy on, they can turn around and say, ‘These roads are horrible, and council didn’t do anything about it,’” Cryzter said. “If they vote it down, they can’t say [that].’”
But even after tossing around a host of ideas to fund the necessary road resurfacing, including an increase in the license-plate tax, most lawmakers realized that a levy would be the most viable — and perhaps only — solution.
“I know people are hurting, and I know people are struggling, but we need to keep things up in the city, too,” Crytzer said. “People take care of their properties, and the houses look good. We need the streets to go along with that.”
A recent roadway condition rating analysis submitted by MS Consultants of Youngstown found that of the 142 asphalt streets evaluated, 78 of those will need to be resurfaced within the next four years. Of those 78 streets, 44 will need to be resurfaced within the next one to two years.
“That’s a critical number,” said Gary Diorio, project manager for MS Consultants.
Diorio added that the estimated cost of paving the city’s streets over the next 10 years is between $6 million and $7 million. He explained, too, that barely a dozen years ago, $50,000 would fund the paving of one mile. Today, paving the same mile would cost $120,000.
Councilman Tony Fire, D-1st, and chairman of the general improvements committee, noted that city council needs to act fast, especially as road conditions are only getting worse, thanks in part to the past few weeks of brutal winter weather. In the meantime, without the funds to make any major repairs, the city is relying on “very temporary” fixes, such as filling potholes with hot asphalt, he said.
This doesn’t make much sense, Crytzer added, because the city is quickly racking up bills for this short-term solution that will last only “six months to a year,” versus a long-term solution — major road resurfacing — that would last several years.
If city council does decide to move forward with the issue, it must pass legislation asking the Mahoning County Board of Elections to place the levy on the ballot by Feb. 5, said Stocker.
Stocker said he knows these types of decisions aren’t popular ones, but are ones that members of city council are required to make, especially if they and the city’s residents want “safe, quality roads.”