August 9, 2014 11:23:05 PM
It will likely be October before construction crews begin working on $4.5 million in road, sidewalk and drainage infrastructure upgrades in the city of Columbus.
Councilmen approved a $5 million bond issue in June to finance the work, which included $500,000 in engineering, project managing and legal fees. A 1.1 mill property tax increase will take effect in October to finance the bond over 15 years.
The city released an infrastructure survey listing needed infrastructure rehabilitation projects in each of the city's six wards. However, the price tag for them came out to an estimated $6.3 million.
Councilmen later voted to disperse the $4.5 million evenly between the city's six wards rather than address the most critical needs regardless of ward location.
The next step was to whittle the $6.3 million down to $4.5 million, which required tough decision-making by the councilmen and further communication with city project managing firm J5 Broaddus and engineering firm Neel-Schaffer to determine which projects would have to wait.
That process is nearly complete, J5 Broaddus senior project manager Robyn Eastman said, except for Ward 5, which councilman Kabir Karriem represents. A revised infrastructure improvement list obtained last week shows that while councilmen in the other five wards have prioritized their needs and gotten their costs around the $750,000 area, Ward 5 still has $1,309,070 listed. Eastman said Ward 5 is the oldest of the six in terms of infrastructure and has more needs.
"He's trying to make the best use of his money," Eastman said, adding that he is confident he and Karriem can get within their $750,000 in Ward 5 by Tuesday. "He has so much that needs attention. There are hardly any sidewalks in his ward. The ones in Ward 5 are real, true needs, and I wish I had enough money to do the $1.3 million over there, but it just doesn't work out that way."
Eastman said he will present a final list to councilmen in September before opening a 30-day bid period. He says bids will be awarded in October and thinks half the projects will be done by the end of 2014. Three different packages will be bid: paving, drainage and concrete.
"I would think that we would be able to get half this work done before we get shut down by weather," Eastman said. "The remainder will be done in the spring."
The initial survey listed paving for Maple and Beech streets in Ward 2, which at an estimated $364,635 would be nearly half of what Joseph Mickens would have available to spend on his ward. A revised version omits Maple Street, which would have been the more expensive of the two to pave.
Shawn Golden has lived near the intersection of Maple Street and Beech Street for two years but has been in the neighborhood for 13. He agreed paving Maple Street should be a high priority when it comes to capital improvements in Ward 2 and added that he regularly experiences drainage issues in his yard. Numerous potholes and cracks were observed on the road.
"It hasn't been paved since I moved here," Golden said. "It needs to be improved bad."
The revised list contains a new sidewalk from Fourth Street to 11th Street along 10th Avenue as a priority in Ward 1, which is Gene Taylor's ward.
Seth Gordon lives on the corner of 10th Avenue South and 10th Street South and has since 1985. He said he's not sure a new one is necessary. His house, like some others, is close to the road and an existing sidewalk is no more than a few steps from his front porch.
"You see what kind of room we've got," Gordon said.
Karriem said one measure he will likely have to take to stay within that amount is removing drainage and sidewalk projects from his list and sticking to paving projects. One road left off the initial survey that he'll have to work in is Plymouth Road, which he said has not been paved in more than 20 years and was added to his ward during the latest redistricting of the city.
"I've been getting numerous calls about that road," Karriem said. "I'm going over each road ... to see the lifespan of the roads and which ones need the most attention. I would love to have sidewalks because people use Railroad Street as a way to get from 14th Avenue to Seventh Avenue, but due to money constraints, I'm not going to be able to do any of the sidewalk work. The roads are in such bad shape and we have to make the infrastructure conducive to travel."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Vo-tech: City schools offer Falcons hands-on learning COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Breast cancer survivors share stories of faith, love COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Starkville, MSU officials tackling SMART route issues STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY