The condition of Venture Drive is a source of constant complaints from Smithfield residents, council members and staff said during a budget meeting.
The street is in such disrepair that it needs rebuilding, and council members say they want to make that a priority in the coming year despite the $700,000 price tag.
The question is how to pay for the work.
One option is to divert all of next year’s street dollars to Venture Drive, but that money, about $325,000 from the state, would not pay for all of the needed work, and it would mean delaying for a year the repaving of other Smithfield streets. In the year ahead, the town is scheduled to repave portions of Second Street, Maple Drive, Hartley Drive, South Fifth Street, South Vermont Street, Rogers Circle, Caswell Street, North Sussex Drive, Greenwood Circle, Harris Street and Milton Drive.
Smithfield has about 64 miles of streets, and every year, it resurfaces about 1.5 miles, mostly with Powell Bill dollars from the state. The town chooses streets based on a 2007 study that ranked, from worst to best, the condition of each Smithfield street.
Other funding options for Venture Drive are a short-term loan, sales-tax receipts, tourism dollars and revenue from a special tax district along Venture Drive and Outlet Center Drive. The tax district would be like the one in downtown Smithfield, where property owners tax themselves extra to pay for development efforts.
For their part, council members feared a special tax district would prove unpopular among property owners, even though property owners and their employees use the streets and benefit from the traffic on them.
Jim Freeman was Smithfield’s interim manager until the council promoted police chief Michael Scott to the post. Freeman is sticking around to help with the 2016-17 budget.
He acknowledged that all of the funding options for Venture Drive have their shortcomings. “I know they’re not good solutions,” Freeman said.
Council members seemed most amenable to combining Powell Bill dollars with a loan or other cash to rebuild the street, even if that meant pushing back other street work for a year.
The good news is that Smithfield can rebuild the street without closing it to traffic, said Public Works director Lenny Branch.
The council made no funding decision at its budge meeting. Town leaders have until July 1 to adopt a fiscal 2016-17 budget.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett