Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 9, 2014

Council hears of roads damaged by winter

By Boris Ladwig Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — Declining funds, a harsh winter and rising costs are causing headaches for local street crews.

The city in 2012 paved just 1.8 miles of its 70 miles of roads, Greensburg Street Department Commissioner Mark Klosterkemper told the Greensburg City Council Monday.

At that pace, each local street will be repaved about every 35 years — but pavement lasts only about 10 to 12 years, depending on traffic.

Klosterkemper said the department is testing alternatives, including micro-surfacing and slurry seals.

Nonetheless, he said, the underlying trends remain: Revenues from the gas tax are declining as people drive more fuel-efficient cars, while costs to repave roads are continuing to increase.

Communities across the nation are dealing with this issue, he said. Some counties are turning some paved roads back into gravel roads because they cannot maintain them.

“Funding is a serious issue … and road conditions will continue to deteriorate,” Klosterkemper wrote in a report to the council.

He also told the council that the harsh winter has led to many potholes and crumbling streets. He is compiling a list of the most severely damaged areas and expected to get some quotes in late May to determine which potholes to fix first.

The amount of ice and snow this winter also has eaten into the department’s supplies of sand and salt, Klosterkemper said.

The lack of a facility to store some of the material is hampering the department’s efforts, he said. This past winter, street crews could not spread sand for a few days because freezing rain had turned the sand solid.

In addition, Klosterkemper said, storing the materials outside violates rules of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Councilman Glenn Tebbe commended the department for its work this winter in clearing the roads of ice and snow and suggested that the city consider purchasing a storage facility.

For about 45 minutes, or about a third of the entire 130-minute meeting, council members discussed and altered an ordinance to change the title, duties and compensation of the mayor’s secretary.

The city plans to turn the part-time secretary position, currently occupied by Mel Fox, into a full-time position: assistant to the mayor and director of public affairs.

Council members, Mayor Gary Herbert, Clerk-Treasurer Bridgett Webber and City Attorney Christopher Stephen talked about whether they had to set an exact salary or could provide a range — (the council set an exact salary of $36,500) — whether, in fact, the document being discussed was an ordinance — (it is) — and whether the new position is a deputy mayor — (it isn’t).

Councilmen Tebbe and Cain clashed about the wording of several sentences in the ordinance. Tebbe said the ordinance made the position sound like a deputy mayor and questioned whether that was the council’s and mayor’s intention.

He also said the ordinance contained a lot of items the members needed to discuss, such as the description of the assistant’s duties, which included the coordination of “aspects to city personnel.”

“Aspects of what?” Tebbe asked. Should this employee provide support and direction? Direction is giving authority, Tebbe said.

Cain suggested changing “aspects” to “information,” which Tebbe said was more precise.

As council members leafed through the document, the discussion about the ordinance’s minutiae prompted Stephen to suggest that on page two, “I don’t think you mean slash ‘s,’ I think you mean parenthetical ‘s.’”

The exchange culminated with Stephen reading from his smart phone the definition of the word “aspects,” which, according to Stephen, is a noun that, among other things, refers to the position of planets or stars. The sequence of events elicited some chuckles in the audience.

Herbert emphasized that the assistant will not make important decisions by him/herself, but will assist the mayor and will be able to give direction under the mayor’s supervision. He also said the assistant will not sit at the City Hall front desk, and that visitors will be directed to the proper offices with signage.

The council adopted the ordinance in first reading as amended Monday evening and will revisit the issue at the next meeting.

Tuesday afternoon, Herbert said that he does not have to advertise for the position, but planned to do so.

The council on Monday also:

• Was told by City Engineer Gary Murray that the city should consider updating its comprehensive plan, which is seven years old.

• Approved to provide a match of about $30,000 to gain federal funds of about $300,000 to replace regulatory signs.

• Heard reports from Greensburg Fire Chief Scott Chasteen and Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Jeff Smith.

Contact: Boris Ladwig 812-663-3111 x7401; boris.ladwig@greensburgdailynews.com