Council looks at plans for city streets
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on December 5, 2012 1:46 PM
A floor above the completed first phase of Goldsboro's signature downtown revitalization project there was no consensus Monday as to whether the Center Street Streetscape project should be continued southward along the city center's main street.
Planning Director Randy Guthrie spoke during the Goldsboro City Council's work session, explaining that if the council was interested in beginning construction on the next two blocks of Center Street in January 2014, the design and bidding process would need to begin in earnest over the next two months.
The next phase of the project would encompass Center Street from Mulberry Street south to Chestnut Street -- the most concentrated areas of business and residences downtown.
Guthrie said the council should plan to award a contract to a design team in early 2013 to be ready for work to begin in early 2014, which has been considered the best start date for the project from a fiscal perspective.
That's because the city will retire a significant amount of debt service on its other loans this year and next. Borrowing money for an additional phase of Streetscape work -- estimated to cost about $2 million a block -- would result in an increase in the city's overall debt service during the initial year of the project before declining again the following year.
District 4 Councilman the Rev. Charles Williams, who has previously been supportive of the project, asked about the necessity of a tax increase to fund the continuation of the project.
City Manager Scott Stevens explained that the debt service on the loan could be paid within the current tax rate, but other council members seemed to indicate they wanted attention to be paid to other priorities in the city, as well.
"The rest of the city's streets are in such poor disrepair, it's hard to justify," District 6 Councilman Gene Aycock said.
Stevens said the infrastructure problems beneath Center Street, combined with the potential to renovate and beautify the city's downtown, qualified the project as an investment rather than only a maintenance expense.
District 1 Councilman Michael Headen asked about the city's street resurfacing plan, which identifies streets to be repaired. Stevens said $600,000 had been earmarked for street resurfacing this fiscal year. Work is slated to begin this spring.
District 3 Councilman William Goodman, who later voiced the most poignant resistance to the project, said council members used to be charged with keeping track of the streets that need repair in their respective districts, referencing his previous run of consecutive terms from 1987 until his resignation in 2004.
Council suggestions do factor into street resurfacing plans, but they often focus mainly on engineering surveys.
Staff from the city's planning department put together street priority lists based on pavement condition surveys that factor in the type of pavement, cracks, patches and the amount of traffic. Streets receive a pavement condition rating based on this survey and staff members seek to spread the resurfacing projects among the districts and in the most cost-efficient manner.
Council members receive copies of the street lists, and are invited to add their suggestions before approving a plan. Typically the street resurfacing plan encompasses two years two years.
Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen noted that the current plan for how to spend the city's allocated $600,000 was in place and Stevens pointed out that the city needs to annually appropriate that much to ensure street maintenance needs are being met.
Headen then shifted the discussion back to the Streetscape project, saying he was "on board" for moving forward, but wanted to make sure the city communicated its other priorities to citizens as well.
But Goodman said he was adamantly opposed to the project's continuation.
He said the reason why so many people are moving out of the city is because the council isn't acting with their best interests in mind, interests he said include cleaning up abandoned homes and repairing streets.
"I'm not in favor of moving forward with the Streetscape," he said, adding that his district and District 1 are the poorest in the city.
Center Street divides those two districts north and south.
District 2 Councilman Bill Broadaway said he had found a different response among people he had talked to.
"I haven't heard anyone saying they're not pleased with it," he said.
Goodman said he needed to talk to business owners on Center Street.
Both Broadaway and Allen said they had spoken with business owners on Center Street, but Goodman said those who he spoke with said that if they council moved forward with the Streetscape project "they'll be closing their doors."
Allen pushed harder, though, making a motion that the council move forward with the project, although that motion was never dealt with directly.
Mayor Al King suggested the council wait two weeks to allow council members to speak with staff about the project before voting at the Dec. 17 meeting on the project.
Headen asked that the council look for a compromise between the Streetscape project and street resurfacing elsewhere, noting that fully informing the public of what the city's priorities are would be a good way to build consensus.
He also said the word Streetscape had begun to take on a derogatory connotation.
King again asked that the decision be tabled until the next meeting, at which Goodman proposed the council host a public hearing on the issue.
King and Allen pointed out that the city had already hosted public hearings on the issue.