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Lebanon To Spend On Roads

Paving Budget Poised To Increase Fourfold

Lebanon — The city’s deteriorating road network could finally receive some attention next year if city councilors approve the proposed $52.2 million 2014 budget, which includes the first significant infusion of cash into Lebanon’s road paving program in five years.

City Manager Greg Lewis said the city’s paving program has been on his radar since he arrived in Lebanon in early 2011. The city put $394,000 into its paving program in 2008, but cut the funding to zero for the 2009 and 2010 budgets. Since 2011, the city has not put more than $65,000 into its paving program in a given year. The 2014 proposed budget increases the amount to $250,000.

“When things are lean and times are tough financially, the paving program is the first thing to get cut,” said Lewis, who added that the amount is likely to increase in coming years. “The paving program is not up to the standards that you would have for a sustainable community. The $250,000 effort is not either, but it is a start. It’s a template.”

Public Works Director Mike Lavalla said it costs about $100,000 per mile to “overlay” a 2-inch asphalt coating on top of existing pavement, but more intensive paving maintenance can be more costly. The city hires outside contractors for all of its paving maintenance work, aside from minor projects such as filling potholes.

Lavalla said at a budget workshop last month that his department would need about $1.6 million annually “to keep our system at the level that we were at probably two years ago in terms of overall quality and paving maintenance.”

“We continue to lose overall quality in the system, which is going to cost us substantially more in the future as we have to go to rebuilding,” Lavalla told city councilors. “We aren’t at a point where everything’s failing ... but with the levels we’ve been able to maintain the last few years, we’re just nipping at what we need to get done.”

The town of Hartford routinely budgets more than $1.2 million for road maintenance, and Claremont City Manager Guy Santagate said the city typically budgets at least $250,000 for annual paving, sometimes up to three time that much.

Lavalla said the Public Works Department maintains 96 miles of city roads, nearly half of which it rates as being in either “poor,” “very poor,” or “failing” condition. Nearly a quarter of the city’s roads are rated “very good,” and 30 percent are rated “good” or “fair.”

The proposed paving fund for the upcoming budget is just a drop in the tar bucket, however, compared to what it would cost to repave all 44 miles of Lebanon’s roads rated as poor or worse. At $100,000 per mile, it would cost about $4.4 million and take 17 years to repave all of them if the city held its pavement budget at $250,00 annually.

With the added funding, Lavalla said his department will target the roads that are at a stage where they can still be saved.

“Once they’ve failed, typically they aren’t the first priorities, unless you have some safety issues or anything like that,” Lavalla said.

City Councilor Suzanne Prentiss said on Tuesday she supports the increase in funding for paving maintenance. She said she has learned in her time as a city councilor to invest more money upfront in city infrastructure in order to save costs, rather than “nickel and diming” the program.

“Until we work to stabilize these things, it will never change,” Prentiss said. “We’re always playing catch-up.”

Since arriving in Lebanon, Lewis has eliminated three positions in the Public Works Department, which is the third-largest in the city, behind the fire and police departments. The department budget is slated to increase 7.6 percent — or $256,660 — to $3.6 million next year.

The City Council will vote on Dec. 18 whether or not to approve the $52.2 million 2014 city budget, which would increase the municipal tax rate by 3.5 percent to $9.76 per $1,000 of assessed value, bringing annual taxes on a $250,000 home to $2,440.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.