Town leaders have a buffet of options to digest as they figure out how roadway management fits into the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.
Commissioners have now heard twice from an engineering firm spelling out Zebulon’s street resurfacing needs and proffering ways the town can address those needs for years to come. The presentations included projections on what five roadway-improvement scenarios would cost the town over a span of eight years, and, as an example, what those costs equal in relation to Zebulon’s tax rate.
The town board has viewed similar breakdowns in recent discussions on other major capital improvement projects.
“I think the big thing we were trying to demonstrate is that this is a costly endeavor and there are few ways to approach it,” said Town Manager Joe Moore. “One, there’s property tax increase; two, there’s use of fund balance or general fund; and three, there’s a combination of the two, assuming you move forward to address a situation.”
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Moore continues to gather expenditure and revenue estimates for the town’s 2016-17 spending plan and will consider the town board’s input on resurfacing, among the other capital projects, as he pieces together a first draft of a budget that will be presented May 2.
As of Tuesday, Moore said he was not yet leaning toward one of the four action options Volkert, the engineering firm, put forward for resurfacing.
Roadways at a glance
Volkert assessed all 19.09 miles of town-maintained streets based on pavement conditions, classifying them as excellent (ratings of 100-95), good (94-90), fair (89-80), moderate (79-70) or poor (less than 70).
The town’s current average rating is 87.7, with 28.2 percent of the roadways considered in excellent condition, 23.8 percent that are good, 25.1 percent that are fair, 15.8 percent that are moderate and 7.1 percent that are poor.
Weaver’s Pond Drive earned a 100 rating, while other streets, such as Sexton Avenue and West Franklin Street were rated good and fair. North Wakefield, North Poplar Street and Cedar Drive are among the poorest-rated streets in town.
Doing no roadway work over the next eight years (presented as option “A”) is estimated to result in more than $4.75 million needed for repairs in 2023. It would also lower the town’s overall rating to an estimated 66.2 by that time.
Other options the firm presented as eight-year improvement plans were:
Option “B”: Address the worst streets first. In this $1.2 million option, overall condition of the town’s roadways is projected to decrease to 75.2 by the eighth year.
Option “C”: Address only pavements poorer than 60 on the grading scale each year. That plan would cost the town $2.35 million over eight years, and overall conditions would decrease to 82.1 by the eighth year. This option would require fluctuating costs by year, with an estimated price tag of nearly $600,000 in the sixth year.
Option “D”: Eliminate poor streets in five years with timed treatments based on pavement condition. That program would cost the town $1.83 million over eight years, but overall conditions would improve to 94.3 by the eighth year. This option also projects fluctuating costs, but it rids the town of poor-condition streets in the first five years. While it would require more funding in the first three years, this plan would also keep streets from falling into poor and moderate ratings at a lower cost.
Option “E”: Eliminate poor streets in eight years with timed treatments based on pavement condition. Option E comes with an eight-year price tag estimated at $2.36 million, and the condition of the town’s streets would improve to 93.5 by the eighth year. This option shows a more even distribution of costs to the town over the eight-year span and also eliminates poor conditions, but it will take all eight years to nix the poor conditions and the option is the most costly of them all.
‘An à la carte list’
Public Works Director Chris Ray stressed that these are strictly options and that there is flexibility if the town board chooses to implement them.
“You have to start somewhere,” Ray said. “We threw some options out for consideration, and there can be variations of it. We can do somewhere in between (the options), or do a little more. It’s kind of an à la carte list. Basically, we built a tool that will help us make decisions.”
Ray said Option D probably makes the most sense to him because it is one of the more affordable options, but that the negative side is how much funding it would require early on.
“Reality is, you’d like to have the lowest cost, but we might not be able to afford that considering the other budget needs from the other town departments,” Ray said. “We’re going to have to prioritize and spend some money on all of (the departments). We’ve got the same kind of laundry list you have at your house.”