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Committee seeks method to explain road priorities

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The city of Roswell Infrastructure Committee will begin working on helping the public understand the whys and hows of choosing which road improvement projects to forward to the full city council.

Initiated by Roswell City Councilor Jacob Roebuck, the chair of the Infrastructure Committee, the committee and City Engineer Louis Najar discussed at Monday afternoon’s meeting creating a roadway project prioritization system.

“We live in a community that they don’t like us spending money unless we give them a really good rationale,” Roebuck said. “They don’t have a natural bent to trust government.”

As an example, he cited the March election on a $35 million public safety complex, which was voted down 4,455 to 1,080, or 80% against to 20% in favor.

“We did a bond issue on our new police station that I thought had fairly good rationale behind it. But frankly, we got our butts kicked. It was 20-80, which was a signal to those of us on the council saying we must do a much better job if we’re going to go asking for money,” he said.

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Roebuck said he believes road projects would generally be supported by the public, but said if the city ever needs to go to voters for funding, the council needs to go “above and beyond” to explain why.

“If we do this again, I want to be sure we are air tight,” he said.

Roebuck said he was not questioning the methods Najar and the engineering staff use to determine project priority, but wanted to see it codified. He said the methodology could eventually be applied to other department projects as well.

“I don’t think this is any way to say staff is not doing a good job prioritizing stuff, but for us to have the ability to go to constituents. They need to understand how this works and what is the thinking,” Roebuck said.

He said it would also be helpful to have the methodology outlined for future city engineers and staff.

Najar described the staff’s processes, starting by reviewing the results of a street survey conducted last year. That survey, by Infrastructure Management Services, determined the city has “fair” street conditions, giving a score of 52 for the average pavement condition index with a five-year backlog of street reconstruction at 29.9%.

PCI ranges from 0 to 100, with a number up to 25 indicating very poor street conditions and 85 to 100 indicating excellent conditions. The national average is 60 to 65, according to an Aug. 28, 2019, Daily Record article on the city’s survey. The backlog consists of streets that require expensive full or partial reconstruction.

Ideally, a city would have a minimum PCI of 60 and a backlog of no more than 15%, Najar said.

At the city’s current streets funding of $5 million, the PCI would be estimated at 53, but the backlog would increase to 37%. A backlog of more than 30% would mean the city streets are in “life support mode,” according to the survey.

A budget of $16.1 million would increase the PCI to 74 and decrease the backlog to 15% over the next five years, Najar said.

Najar then outlined the department’s plans prior to the coronavirus. The city’s plans include milling the existing street surface and replacing it with new asphalt on Sunsent Avenue from Walnut Street to McGaffey and Poe Street to Brasher Road; North Garden Avenue from Second to Cherry streets; and Washington Street from McGaffey to Alameda Street.

“We had high hopes in March we could have a little extra money, get a little more aggressive,” and add secondary projects, Najar said.

“If you’ve driven all those streets, you know the condition,” Najar said.

West McGaffey is not on the department’s list because it is hoped the city council will place that among its top five projects for the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, Najar said. The council will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. Sept. 3 to determine its top five capital projects to submit for state funding.

Najar described the road prioritization process as sitting down with Streets Superintendent Quentin Miller to discuss what they see in street conditions, listing those that need work and then estimating the costs.

Factors such as water main breaks and weather can change a project’s priority, he said.

They also consider the city manager’s master projects list, which Najar said is the political process brought into the prioritization.

Roebuck said he anticipates the prioritization will simply be documenting the engineering department’s process into a model for councilors and the public to easily understand.

“I don’t want us to think it’s a radical change in what you’re doing. But if we can document it so that we can easily communicate and understand that process among the other councilors as well as the constituency, that’s the important part,” he said.

Councilor Margaret Kennard suggested ranking Roswell’s streets in the manner states are often ranked for their road quality. Roebuck agreed.

“People like lists. They like seeing where does this rank. It generates excitement and interest in our streets,” he said.

Roebuck and Najar said the process of documenting the prioritization system could take several months. Najar will bring his initial ideas to the committee next month.

Also in Monday’s Infrastructure Committee Meeting:

• Najar updated the committee on the construction of the water towers near the Roswell Air Center. The city logo will be painted on Tower No. 1 by the end of September.

• The committee approved sending to the full council a resolution supporting an application to the New Mexico Water Trust Board to fund a new 12-inch water main in the Edgewood area, on Cherry Street from Garden Street to Atkinson Avenue. The cost is estimated at $1 million. The city will apply for $750,000 in funding.

• The committee also approved sending to full council a $210,543 change order for the Water System Valve Replacement project. The contractor identified significant changes required after excavating four sites in the project.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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