BAXTER — With roads aging, Baxter city officials are pondering how to pay to implement a pavement plan.
With residents on large lots, assessments to replace roads or extend city services reached tens of thousands of dollars per homestead. Baxter is currently looking at options to manage pavement repair and replacement with a goal of extending street life.
But it all comes with a price tag. Bolton & Menk submitted a comprehensive pavement management system report earlier this week. One of the options the Baxter City Council is considering is eliminating the number of garbage truck haulers allowed on city streets. It’s a concept Brainerd previously rejected. Baxter reported the only two vehicles it can’t limit, from certain roads with seasonal load limit restrictions to protect streets, are garbage trucks and school buses. The issue is expected to be a topic of conversation in September when Baxter hosts its town meeting.
In the pavement management plan, pavement condition was identified for each city street.
“Based on the results of the street evaluation, the estimated current pavement improvement need is $14,463,000 to bring every street segment to either newly reconstructed or maintained to a rating of nine or better,” the Bolton & Menk report stated. The rating comes from a Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) system with 10 being pavement in excellent condition.
The city has 81.2 miles of streets with 34.8 miles or nearly 43 percent with a PASER rating of five and six and 38.8 miles or 47.8 percent rated between seven and eight. Streets in the seven and eight category typically need crack rout and seal coating or patching. A road in the five and six rating condition may need a pavement overlay. A road with a rating of one may be 25 years old and likely for a recommendation for a full reconstruction.
The report found many streets have not deteriorated to a point where complete reconstruction is required.
Currently the city follows a crack rout/seal program to extend street life. It costs $625 per mile. The Bolton & Menk report stated the total annual budget amount for street maintenance should be increased dramatically. The report contended doing nothing would result in pavement deterioration estimated to result in a pavement need of about $26.7 million by 2018.
Bolton & Menk provided several budget scenarios with local dollars and municipal state aid. A five-year plan looked at spending $1.76 million in local funding between 2014 and 2018. The five-year plan would maintain and rehabilitate 62 miles of city streets. Using a 10-year plan, local funding was estimated at $881,000 to maintain and rehabilitate streets at a rating of five and above. But Bolton & Menk stated this approach doesn’t place enough priority on preserving existing pavement. A seven-year plan has an annual local aid street budget of $1,346,600 for the first five years and $1,510,000 for the next two years followed by a pavement maintenance budget of $466,000 per year.
Council member Rob Moser said the city has good soils. He questioned why the city couldn’t have a longer view for a pavement management plan.
“I’m not convinced,” Rob Moser said of starting at a five-year plan. “I’m struggling with that. ... “
Moser said the city may be doing more water and sewer projects by the end of a decade, meaning streets would be reconstructed along with extension of utilities.
“It’s such a big leap,” Moser said, adding he realized the city has a lot of roads that need attention.
Council member Mark Cross said he was hearing it’s more important in the first five years to get seal coating, and the city could build up savings if those roads end up lasting longer.
“The big question is the funding of it,” Moser said, adding if he had more of a comfort level with the funding question, it would be an easier decision. “I like taking smaller steps and it just seems like a big one.”
The city has been working on an assessment policy and looking to bring costs per parcel for water, sewer and street down from $22,000 per parcel to something closer to $15,600.
The city recently pondered whether a utility franchise fee may be an option to fund street maintenance and annual seal coating costs. Those fees have been known to range between $1.50 and $3.
“To me, it’s a tax,” said Council member Jim Klein.
Council member Todd Holman said he isn’t hearing the council is stepping back from road responsibilities and the franchise fee may be an option. Holman said he was in favor of exploring it to cover the lion’s share of the pavement management plan.
“I will be a proponent of this as a tool going forward,” Holman said.
Mayor Darrel Olson said if the city doesn’t use a franchise fee it will have to levy and then all tax-exempt properties won’t have to pay. Olson said a more fair way is to use a franchise fee and that made it appealing. Cross agreed. Moser, a Crow Wing Power employee, said he felt awkward even discussing the topic.
“Whatever we do, I hope it would be fair across the board to all,” Moser said.
“I’m a proponent of extending the sales tax,” Klein said. “And we have everybody paying for it not just the city of Baxter.”
Olson said the sales tax isn’t authorized for ongoing maintenance.
Cross said a franchise fee was similar to a stormwater fee. Moser said to cover the pavement management plan, the city needs more than $1 million per year.