Bexley service director wants $11 million to fix streets

While Bexley City Council considers a return to assessing homeowners for fixing sidewalks, Service Director Bill Harvey is recommending a big jump in funding for street repairs.

At the May 13 finance committee meeting, Harvey proposed that the city borrow $11 million to boost its street repair program, with the debt to be paid from the $800,000 collected from the street levy funds.

Crumbling roadways and skyrocketing costs are wearing away at the available funds.

Construction costs for resurfacing are going up 15 percent every year, estimated Finance Director Beecher Hale.

"No way is the levy enough to fix our streets for the next 20 years," Harvey said.

Without more money, the city will have to go to the voters for an additional levy, he cautioned.

An engineering study done in 2006 rated half of Bexley streets, about 30 miles of roadways, as being in fair or poor condition.

After five years, streets in poor condition become unusable, Harvey added.

The street levy allows the city to repair three or four streets every year, along with a few alleys.

Under Harvey’s plan, the city would spend $3 million a year to fix between nine and 11 streets.

Spending $1 now saves $4 to $5 for more extensive repairs down the road, according to Harvey.

It’s not an entirely new idea. Former councilman John Rohyans suggested something similar last year.

"It made sense then. It makes sense to me now," Councilman Jeff McClelland said.

If he had his way, Harvey said he would like the city to adopt the same kind of plan for repairing its water and sewer lines at the same time that streets are fixed.

Once everything is repaired, you won’t have to touch that street for 25 years, he said.

In four to five years, every street in Bexley could be fixed, Mayor John Brennan said.

Putting more money into its roads could put Bexley in a better position to receive state grants and low-interest loans, such as those used for work on North Cassady and Maryland Avenue, Harvey said.

Council President Matt Lampke expressed concern that, if the street levy is  insufficient to meet the city’s needs, borrowing only puts off the issue of asking voters for money money.

"We’re putting off a decision on what’s needed for the streets, instead of making the tough decisions now," Lampke said.

A portion of the money from borrowing would only go to repair sidewalks for which the city is responsible, Harvey noted.

If Bexley returns to assessing homeowners for sidewalk repairs, the street fund would have another $150,000 a year available.

Auditor Larry Heiser gave a thumbs-up to the plan.

"In the long-term, it makes sense," Heiser said, although he would need to see figures for construction to make a final judgment.

The ordinance that would bring back the policy on assessing homeowners for most sidewalk repairs received its second reading.

Online registration for recreation

While the service director is trying to smooth out the streets in the city, Parks and Recreation Director Doug Jackson wants to use the information superhighway to make it easier for residents to register for its programs.

Jackson is asking the city to spend $12,000 for a software service that would allow residents to register for recreation programs and access other information.

Having the service would free up time his staff members are using filling out paperwork, Jackson said.

The service also provides more opportunities to market the department’s offerings,  while saving costs on printing brochures and flyers, he added.

The company, ActiveNet, makes its money by collecting a fee for every transaction.

There would be a 6.5 percent fee added to each transaction for online credit card registration.

Jackson is proposing that his department absorb half of that cost instead of passing all of it on to the residents.

Those residents are already paying a 2.25 percent fee for credit card registrations in person, he pointed out, so the overall increase for online registration is small.

The server would be at an off-site location, meaning that, if the recreation department’s computers go down, residents can still access the online registration.

In addition to registration, participants would be able to view their household accounts to see what programs they are signed up for, the ones they have attended in the past, and print receipts. Emergency medical information would stay in the system and wouldn’t have to be re-entered for each registration.

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