Voters to decide fate of city’s quarter-cent sales tax for street maintenance

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With 635 lane miles of streets within the Georgetown city limits to maintain, the city relies upon a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax to help fund street maintenance.

On Nov. 4, as Georgetown voters head to the polls to decide a new governor and select local representation, they will once again have a chance to decide if the street maintenance tax will continue.

The tax was first approved by voters in 2002 and must be reauthorized by voters every four years, Georgetown Transportation Director Ed Polasek said.

The tax is expected to generate about $2.05 million in the 201415 fiscal year, or about 55 percent of the street maintenance budget, Georgetown Chief Financial Officer Micki Rundell said.

Generally we try to spend [the sales tax revenue]on preventive maintenance, Transportation Services Manager Mark Miller said.

Preventive maintenance projects include crack seal, which injects tar into cracks in the roadway, preventing further damage; sealant, which is a chemical applied to the surface of the roadway to reduce damage from ultraviolet radiation and vehicle traffic; and chip seal, which lays emulsion and small gravel on the roadway and seals it to improve the quality and life span of the roadway.

By using these methods, which can cost between $500 and $17,600 per lane mile, Miller said the city can prolong the life of the citys roadways and prevent more costly rehabilitation projects, which can cost up to $1.4 million per lane mile.

If this [tax]doesnt pass, we are going to have to lower our maintenance standard on our streets in order to not affect the property tax rate, Polasek said.

Revenue generated by the sales tax can only be used to repair the roads and must be used on projects completed before the sales tax is reauthorized every four years, meaning projects completed after the November election would not qualify for funding until the next election, Miller said.

Miller said an analysis of all 635 lane miles of city streets was completed in September. The process is done every three years to evaluate and score the citys roadway surfaces using a grading system from 1100.

The Transportation Department uses the scores to determine which streets are most in need of maintenance and then ranks them according to priority, Transportation Engineer Bill Dryden said.

The council has said we must attempt to maintain a score of 85 or greater, [on our streets system]he said. From that [analysis]we develop the five-year [capital improvements plan]. And it gets updated every three years.

Miller said he expects the streets as a whole to be rated an 8788 this year.

It gets difficult to keep a high score because so much of our system is new, Miller said, adding that since 1994 the city has added nearly 400 lane miles of roadway.

Other issues have arisen because of the drought, which has caused some roadways to crack as the ground beneath dries, he said.

Weve been in a drought of record, and we are getting cracking. That will down your scores quick, he said. Thats why we try to coat as many roads as we can, and every dime of that money gets spent every year trying to cover as much as we can so we can keep those scores up.

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