Costs prohibit overhaul of Commerce streets

Jul 14, 2016

In Commerce, the condition of the streets is an ongoing issue. In some cases, the roadways are smooth and new, but on far too many blocks, potholes and other defects are a problem for those in city government, including new mayor Wyman Williams.

  Audio transcript

Mayor Wyman Williams: The streets are a part of the whole challenge of our city. Our budget is challenged to the point that we must take funds from our wastewater income to help cover our regular budget.

Haslett: A recent street- improvement project on the university’s campus was completed thanks in large part to state funding. Williams says that the cost of that project included some utility pipeline work that would also have to be a part of any major improvements on city-owned streets.

Williams: We had a street program that we lived with here on campus for over two years, and that was three phases of street repair. And it is complete, and it’s very well done. Part of it was paid for the by the university, about a quarter of it. We had a state grant that paid a quarter of it, and then half was paid for by bonds that were voted by our citizens, and now we owe for that. So when it comes to looking down the road for street, we have a challenge that we saw in that lengthy process of repairing the streets around the campus, and that was you have to repair the infrastructure under the streets before you pave them. We could more inexpensively repave many streets, but soon they’d be torn up because of the old pipes under them. So the cost of street repair includes infrastructure replacement, very expensive. So at the moment, we don’t have a big program to repair a lot of streets. Of course every budget has maintenance for particular problems, but not a general upgrade as we saw the streets around the campus, and that’s a need that we must address as we figure out how to increase our revenues.

Haslett: Williams says that more bonds for more street repairs would be a bad idea right now. The City of Commerce is already paying off lots of debt. Also, any new debt taken on at the moment would come with high interest rates.

Williams: More bonds are an option, but not a good option right now because of our bond rating. We have, because of our lower revenues and the fact that we borrow funds from our enterprise funds, which is water and wastewater; we have a BBB bond rating. Now I don’t know if you’re familiar with was that means but a AAA would be excellent, and we’re a BBB, and that is getting close to not being able to borrow money at all. It’s just like a credit rating. And because we don’t have the strength in revenues that we would like, that bond rating is a result, and we have to do many things to increase the income to our city so we can better provide city services, including repairing the streets.

Haslett: So if you’re driving on the streets of Commerce, you can expect the status quo to continue when it comes to the condition of local roadways. Just the needed repairs to get by, with no major improvements in the short term plan. For KETR News, this is Mark Haslett.