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Council talks curb and gutter

The city could devote more money than previously planned to neighborhood improvements throughout the next few years.

City Manager Patrick Roberts told City Council during a Nov. 1 work session that he hopes to increase funding earmarked for improvements like curb, gutter and drainage in the city’s 10-year Capital Improvements Plan.

The plan approved last year set aside only $1.25 million in the current year for such improvements and projected the same amount could be set aside again in four years.

However, Roberts said his goal in the upcoming revision of the plan is to increase funding and include funding every year for at least the first five years of the plan.

“This will be a priority area that we focus on in the development of the CIP,” Roberts said.

During the budget process earlier this year, representatives of a number of neighborhoods near downtown came out to plead for more money to be devoted to the improvements. City Council asked Roberts to come up with a plan to make it happen.

Roberts said he has identified $620,000 that will be the starting point for next year’s improvements.

However, some neighborhoods may not be too happy with the proposed plan.

Deputy City Manager Scott Mills said the city plans to continue with curb, gutter and drainage improvements in the Lloyd Place and Rosemont neighborhoods next. Neighborhoods like Boston, Huntersville, Saratoga and South Suffolk have been completed in recent years.

Improvements on one street in Lloyd Place have been completed, so the city decided to focus on that area, Mills said.

“We used the neighborhood indicators and relied on the premise that we want to finish the neighborhoods that we’ve started working in as opposed to jumping around and doing it in piecemeal fashion,” Roberts added during the work session.

According to a city ranking of capital infrastructure needs prepared in 2013, West Jericho and North Jericho ranked as most in need, followed by Philadelphia, Boston, Pleasant Hill, Hollywood and South Suffolk.

Next came Eastover, Rosemont, Oakdale, Tynes Park, Lake Kennedy Estates and then Lloyd Place rounding out the top 13.

An overall neighborhood assessment ranking included other factors and changed the ranking slightly. Philadelphia and Pleasant Hill ranked as the most in need, followed by South Suffolk, Boston and Lloyd Place.

Rosemont was further down the list, following other neighborhoods such as Jericho, Olde Towne, Hall Place and Saratoga.

The full assessment included factors such as violent crime and property crimes, dilapidated buildings, property values and more.

City Council members were concerned that residents of other neighborhoods will be upset.

“I know there will be some neighborhoods that’s not going to be satisfied with what’s going to take place,” Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett said. “We’re going to have to make a tough decision on where the money’s going to be spent. I hope that everyone that lives in these different neighborhoods will come and voice their concerns.”

Mayor Linda T. Johnson said the assessment tool should help ease the concerns that some neighborhoods have been overlooked.

“I think that’s why it’s really important to have that assessment tool,” she said. “We’ve got to have a guideline.”

Roberts said it may take 20 years or more to finish the Lloyd Place and Rosemont neighborhoods, as they encompass a large geographic area.

With such a long-term project, Councilman Lue Ward worried about what may happen to the plan in the future.

“This dais has changed, but the problem stays the same,” he said. “If we’re going to put money there, we’re going to make sure money stays there regardless of who’s up there.”

But Mayor Johnson noted the current council members cannot control what happens in the future.

“When this council’s no longer here and there’s eight other folks up here, we can’t really control what happens in the future,” she said. “It’s kind of like control beyond the grave. You just don’t have it.”