Crisfield City Council split on whether to borrow half a million dollars for street reparis

CRISFIELD — If you see a pink X inside a circle painted in the middle of the street, don’t worry, it’s not a new gang sign. Instead it’s the mark of the mayor and his public works team as they identify locations suitable for resurfacing.

Mayor Kim Lawson wants to piggyback on paving that will take place in Crisfield this spring. That includes all of the dual highway that the State Highway Administration is expected to do once it completes its sidewalk replacement project, and $1.2 million in paving paid for primarily through superstorm Sandy recovery funds.

A majority of the City Council is willing to borrow money for additional street resurfacing, using the annual State Highway User Revenue allotment to pay it back. At its lowest that is figured to be $30,000 per year, which will cover most of the payment on a $500,000 loan. Clerk-Treasurer Joyce Morgan said the current borrowing limit for the city is $540,000 but in another year $47,000 in debt payments will be completed, freeing up additional funds.

The mayor said he will get estimates on resurfacing Hammock Pointe Drive; resurfacing a section of South Somerset Avenue from Cove Street to Woodson; curbing and cul-de-sac improvements on Anchor Drive; paving Dixon Street, which leads to the base of the future wind turbine; paving and drainage improvements to Spruce Street; three cul-de-sacs at the Housing Authority; and adding curbing, planters and repaving the downtown municipal parking lot.

Mercury Drive will be considered after construction of the new Head Start center at the high school. Pine Street was originally on the list but with the 1936 sewer still needing to be replaced it was also put on hold. A section of 10th Street between West Main and Broad was also discussed, but SHA will be asked to do that in exchange for parking its vehicles on city property.

“We haven’t borrowed any money yet,” the mayor said, and currently there is only a quote from Hebron Savings Bank which is willing to lend up to $850,000.

The most vocal proponent of expanding the street improvement project is Councilman Erik Emely, who wants work to start sooner rather than later. He also made it clear that “Nobody” has talked about raising taxes for this, including the mayor, who said, “It’s not my intent” — although he was not so certain water and sewer rates won’t change after July 1.

Councilman Mark Konapelsky represents the minority of the council, who wants to instead do all of the resurfacing with the Sandy money and hold off a year before doing more. To do a half million dollars of paving now, “we tie up our Highway User Funds, which means we’ll get instant gratification, and be locked for five years,” he said. He also said by then the wind turbine will be running, and the savings to the city known, and “then we can make a more responsible decision.”

Mr. Konapelsky said to borrow at the highest level, “you’re going to hit pocketbooks doing that.” In his camp is Councilman Mike Atkins.

City Manager Rick Pollitt said the city would still have to solicit bids for resurfacing, and could not seek to extend an existing contract that SHA might have, or the one the county approved in March with Chesapeake Paving. The $1,046,383 in Sandy money being used to restore all or sections of seven streets includes those specifically selected because of their use and neighborhood demographics.

One of them, Lorie Quinn Drive, can be paved only half-way with Sandy money, but the City Council voted previously to resurface the rest of the road all the way to the beach.

“We’ve been waiting, waiting, and waiting, and nothing’s getting done,” Mr. Emely said. “Now’s the time to get something done.” He said the city parking lot alone, “looks like a dump” and this “is where tax dollars should be spent.” “The citizens have been waiting…the waiting’s done.”

Councilwoman LaVerne Johnson said she’s had two alignments because of the poor streets. “I’ve spent enough money on my car just because of the roads in town, and I’m not exaggerating.”

She agreed with Mr. Emely, that something has to be done.

“We have to move forward some kind of way,” Ms. Johnson said. “Debt might not be the answer, but right now that’s the only answer I can think of as a council person because the roads are so bad.” “We need to start somewhere.”

This subject is expected to be raised again during the April 27 regular meeting.

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