Humboldt streets at issue



June 29, 2010 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — Humboldt city officials aren’t sure which funding mechanism they would pursue to pay for future street projects, if they pursue one at all.
Members of the Humboldt Street Committee spoke Monday during a public forum regarding the state of Humboldt’s streets.
Committee members, Humboldt City Councilman Sean McReynolds, Mayor Bob Sharp, City Administrator Larry Tucker and Public Works Director Craig Mintz, assured the 30 or so residents in attendance that any potential funding source, such as sales or property tax increases, would require a public referendum.
“There won’t be any decision making tonight,” Sharp said at the outset of the meeting.
Rather, the meeting was simply to share the city’s plight and to gather any opinions from the community.

THE ISSUE WITH many of Humboldt’s streets boils down to their base, McReynolds said, which likely consists of river gravel that cannot be compacted like other types of rock. As a result, “we see the same failures year after year.
“We’ll throw some oil and new rock, and it will look good for about seven or eight months before failing again,” he continued.
And after decades of the same type of “Band-Aid” fixes, water drainage has suffered in many parts of town.
“The water can’t get to the ditches on many streets,” which in turn quickens the pace of some street failures, McReynolds said.
In fact, fixing the water drainage should be given a high priority, as well as rebuilding some streets from their base, Mintz said.
The city would need to consider hiring a structural engineer who specializes in streets to aid the city in any long-term approaches, McReynolds said.
McReynolds posed three questions:
— If money was no object, what sort of streets would the city want?
— What would be the minimum type of street improvements needed to get by today?
— What do residents think of the current “state of the streets?”

HIS QUESTIONS drew a number of similar responses.
Most would want streets with curbs, gutters and sidewalks, although realistically, doing that everywhere would not be affordable.
Likewise, the city cannot continue to only do chip-and-seal repairs because those projects do not provide long-term solutions to streets with failing bases, particularly for Humboldt’s busiest streets.
“So it appears the consensus is for us to do what we can afford until we can afford more?” McReynolds asked rhetorically.
Mintz noted that if Humboldt built more concrete streets, which would in turn require new curbs and gutters, it would greatly improve water drainage in many areas.
Another benefit is that if the concrete failed years later, crews could then put new asphalt on the surface, “because you already have a good base.”
The city would be unable to do many street rebuild projects in-house unless it purchased, rented or leased new equipment, Mintz said.
Perhaps the city could work in league with other municipalities faced with the same issues, one audience member suggested, to help purchase or lease equipment at a shared cost.

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