City curbs road work because of low funds

Cars drive along Sheppard Street Tuesday. Since 2011, the City of Minden has not had any major overlay projects for its road system.

Since 2011, the City of Minden has not had any major overlay projects for its road system.

Public Works Director George Rolfe said they may not be able to do an overlay project this year or even the next if they don’t get more revenue coming in to pay for the cost of materials.

Streets are evaluated every year, Rolfe said, and the last major street improvements and overlay cost the city about $600,000 to $800,000.

“There has been very little money in the last four years,” he said. “It’s like your personal finances or mine, we all have only so much to work with and that’s the issue.”

Mayor Tommy Davis said the city’s revenue is down, which accounts for the drop in money for road materials. Sales taxes make up 52 percent of the city’s revenue, and of that 52 percent, the city only gets 2 percent, which was about $5.5 million for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Half of that goes to sewage and recreation, while the other half is used to cover the rest of the city’s departments, he said. About $2.75 million is split among the various departments for their needs. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, sales taxes were down about $328,000, and revenue the city received from investments is down to nothing, he said.

“There’s two things – we either have to cut services, or we have to raise revenue,” he said, “because our revenue is not enough to sustain what we used to do. It’s really a matter of revenue.”

Rolfe said they only received $200,000 for road repairs and overlay. Although no overlay projects have been done this year, Davis said some would be done before the end of this fiscal year, which ends in September.

Expenses are going up as well. Rolfe said asphalt has increasingly gotten more expensive.

“We used to pay $25 per ton of asphalt, and now we pay $75 per ton of asphalt,” Rolfe said. “When we have to go in and mill a street, we go ahead and put two inches of asphalt on top of it. Sometimes, if it is an existing street, and it just takes a topping, we’ll put an inch and a half on there. That now cost somewhere between $90 to $115 to $120 a ton.”

Davis said $800,000 would be a comfortable amount to give public works for street improvements and overlays. However, that is not what they are dealing with, he said.

“You can’t spend money you don’t have,” he said. “We’re not having any different problem than the Webster Parish Police Jury is having, or the state, and other municipalities are having the same problems all around us. The economy just needs to pick up, and I think it will as the oil and gas industry picks up.”

Roads are rated on a system of one to five, with five being the best condition and one being the worst. Rolfe said the system developed decades ago is subjective and based upon the inspector’s perspective. Many things are considered when rating roads, such as traffic count, potholes, the types of cracks in the road and structural integrity.

In 2014, 328 roads in Minden were rated, with 86 percent in good or better condition, and 14 percent in substandard condition. In 2015 and 2016, 338 roads were rated, with 74 percent listed in good or better condition and 26 percent in substandard condition.

Rolfe emphasized that not all of the roads in Minden are city streets. The major arteries into and out of Minden are state or federal highways, such as Highways 79 and 80, Shreveport Road, Lee Street and Sibley Road.

Davis and Rolfe said anytime a pothole appears, they do their best to patch it within a reasonable time frame, and if an area of concern appears, call city hall.

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