Projects that would be funded by tax
Approving a 0.3 percent sales tax to finance city infrastructure upgrades and equipment purchases would be expected to generate $42.7 million over 10 years, according to the city of Lawrence. Of that total, $500,000 a year would go toward adding sidewalks, repairing brick streets and boosting repaving efforts.
Also on the list would be reconstruction of selected roads. Among "major reconstruction candidates," according to the city:
¢ Bob Billings Parkway: Iowa Street to Crestline Drive, $4.8 million; Crestline to Kasold Drive, $2.8 million.
¢ Kasold: Bob Billings to Harvard Road, $4.1 million; Harvard to Sixth Street, $4 million.
¢ 19th Street: Naismith Drive to Iowa, $3.2 million.
¢ Wakarusa Drive: Bob Billings to 18th Street, $2.7 million.
Carroll Lashbrook replaced his roof five years ago, then went on to add a new deck, apply new siding, install a new air conditioner and, less than a year ago, replace his original furnace.
Now he's looking forward to the next major upgrade at this place on Trail Road: a fresh new coat of asphalt pavement for the road out front and new curbs around the corner.
"It's about time," said Lashbrook, who retired in Lawrence after a career working in building materials.
The work on Trail Road is among more than $1.14 million worth of such projects lined up through the end of October. In all, the city will have spent $5 million this year for repaving and related work, from filling cracks on mildly damaged streets to replacing pavement, curbs and gutters on roadways considered lost to neglect.
It's a program aiming to get even larger in the years ahead, with Lawrence city commissioners asking city voters to approve a 0.3 percent sales tax in November to finance street repairs, maintenance and other municipal projects and equipment purchases.
The tax would generate an estimated $2.2 million next year, then $3.9 million in 2010 and continue on for a full decade. Much of the money would be dedicated for rebuilding streets with surfaces that already have crumbled and bases eroded to the point of no return.
Any thought of cutting back on road maintenance - a suggestion that tends to surface during tight budget times - isn't gaining traction at Lawrence City Hall.
"We have a responsibility to the community to maintain our streets," said David Corliss, city manager. "We're not putting the resources into street maintenance that we need to. Every year we're getting behind. :
"They don't heal themselves."
The city's current overlay program is reserved for roads that remain in sound shape below the surface, but with tops that are too damaged to be appropriate for simple patches, crack-fillings or other occasional fixes.
Heading into fall, roads that fit that description include Trail, from Monterey Way to Folks Road; Rockledge Road, from Country Club Terrace to McDonald Drive; and several streets in the neighborhood near Prairie Park School.
More are out there, and the city is working to catch up with necessary road work as fast as it can, said Steve Lashley, who put together plans for the latest round of such overlay projects.
"We're trying to get everywhere across the city in a timely matter," he said.
The first hope is to fill small cracks in roads with emulsified asphalt so that existing cracks don't get worse, he said. Roads that need more attention are candidates for "microsurfacing," a process in which a thin layer of pavement is applied atop an existing road surface.
The city started using such microsurfacing last year, Lashley said, and officials are hoping for good results.
Next up: Milling old pavement and replacing it with fresh overlays of new pavement, a process that typically costs five times more than the use of microsurfacing, Lashley said. It's the last line of defense for retaining the structure of a road.
Roads that already have lost their integrity - ones that seem to have pothole-repair crews on call constantly - need to be rebuilt from the ground up. That's a much more expensive process, Corliss said, and one that the sales-tax proposal is designed to address.
'A very difficult choice'
Besides financing purchases of fire-protection equipment, helping pay for upgrades to drainage systems in North Lawrence and tackling other basic municipal needs, the tax revenues would be used to rebuild bad stretches of road, Corliss said. Among them: 19th Street from Naismith Drive to Iowa Street.
Some residential streets that normally would fall low on a priority list because they carry relatively low volumes of traffic would get attention under the expanded plan. Some areas also would get new sidewalks to connect gaps between existing pedestrian walkways.
If the sales tax does not pass Nov. 4, however, city leaders will be left to see what's next.
"If we don't get the sales tax, we're looking at a very difficult choice: a substantial increase in property taxes, or live with substandard streets," Corliss said, noting that the sales tax would be equivalent to a rise of about 20 percent in the city's portion of a resident's property-tax rate.
Katie Lashbrook, a retired nurse, knows what's at stake. She sees plenty of roads all over town that still need work, beyond the one outside the home that she shares with her husband.
While she intends to vote for the sales tax - mindful of how long it will be until others might be relieved of their widening cracks, disintegrating curbs and deepening potholes - she's uncertain whether others in town will be willing to spend money now to prevent even bigger problems down the road.
"Times are hard," she said. "People don't have the money."