In a continuing series of articles on city services we asked the city administration to address concerns expressed by residents about large and recurring potholes on various streets throughout Olney. City Administrator Doug Hughes and City Secretary Tim Houston stopped by to address those concerns in a one-on-one meeting.
Houston said that for the most part the city roads are in good shape for a town the size of Olney, though they are aware of certain sections that need improvement. Employees in the Olney Public Works Department are always on alert for necessary street repairs and strive to make those repairs in a timely manner.
Nevertheless, Houston encourages citizens to notify the city of any concerns they have about the streets. He stated, “Potholes are an issue we like to fix as soon as possible. That being said, when the weather is bad, if it is raining, or if it has just rained and the ground is still wet, we can’t always get to it right away. If we put something down, it might not stick because the ground is too soft. This is especially true when it comes to alleyways, spreading dirt and gravel out when the ground is wet usually does not fix the problem because the new dirt and gravel will simply spread out since the ground is soft, but we always encourage our citizens to come and tell us about their concerns that way we can get streets and alleys repaired.”
As with any infrastructure project, the expense is always a factor. Road repair is multifaceted with costs for resurfacing, filling potholes and subsurface replacement costs. Hughes said, “If I had to estimate the cost now, I would estimate approximately $100-$140 per linear foot to resurface an existing road that is 22-feet wide and covered with 2 inches of hot mix. That price is a good starting point for a base price.” This leads to a price tag in excess of $530,000 to completely resurface an existing road that is only one-mile in length.
Hughes added, “Usually if a street continues to develop potholes it is just an underlying subbase that is missing or needs repair meaning the road needs to be pulled up, replaced and resurfaced, which can lead to higher costs to the city than just resurfacing a road.”
Houston said the city is aware of a couple of areas in town that need extensive street repairs, which usually appear in high traffic areas such as behind Stewart’s Grocery and by Western Heights Apartments, and also parts of North Avenue O. “We are not insensitive to folks out there who have commutes that take them over rougher roads. We encourage them to report any issues that present a significant safety concern. However, at the same time, we have to look at our budgetary constraints and our underground infrastructure before we can completely replace an existing street.”
While considering the costs of road repair, it is critical for the city to examine the underlying infrastructure such as water and sewer lines. “We first want to evaluate the utility infrastructure below our streets. If we need to replace those utility lines we can look at road replacement with utility repairs as a package, or plan another approach to the issues as our budget allows. If the utility lines are ignored and you resurface a road, you run the risk of having to dig the road right back up and resurface it again” Houston explained.
The infrastructure projects are included in the city’s master plan that comprises areas in town that need improvement as well as roads that need to be repaired. The master plan is kept at city hall. Houston said the staff are willing to open it up for review if any citizen is interested. He explained the master plan is essentially an engineer’s or city planner’s idea for the city. Although it is good to have such a plan, Houston said it is not always financially feasible for the town to carry out everything in the master plan. “We can pick out the relevant ideas to determine feasibility and then budget funds or submit grant applications to accomplish those projects.”
Citizens should note that certain roads are managed by the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT maintained roads include Main Street (State Highway 114), State Highway 79, State Highway 251, Springcreek Road (FM 210) and Avenue M South of Main (Highway Loop 132).
Houston and Hughes closed with gratitude to the city’s workers. Houston said, “We appreciate our public works folks. These folks work in all kinds of conditions, and they don’t often receive praise for the work they do. I want to thank [the city workers] for all their hard work. These folks go out when it is raining, cold, snowing, sleeting, the days when it’s over 100 degrees, and sometimes even in the middle of the night to get the job done. On behalf of the city, I want to express our appreciation for the job they do daily in maintaining our parks, streets, cemeteries, as well as our water and wastewater systems.”