Archive for Friday, August 5, 2011

City to discuss brick street maintenance

Missing and crumbling bricks on Vermont Street between W. 21st and W. 22nd made this section of road one of the five worst streets in Lawrence when the photo was taken in 2008. The designation is based on the city's own pavement condition index. Three of the worst five are brick and one is unpaved section of a dead end street.

Missing and crumbling bricks on Vermont Street between W. 21st and W. 22nd made this section of road one of the five worst streets in Lawrence when the photo was taken in 2008. The designation is based on the city's own pavement condition index. Three of the worst five are brick and one is unpaved section of a dead end street.

August 5, 2011


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It is a youthful workout, that’s for sure.

In the small town of Holton, about 45 minutes north of Lawrence, it has become a ritual of sorts for high school students to head down to City Hall to apply for what surely must be one of the more physically demanding summer jobs, but evidently one of the more sought-after as well: bricklayer.

“We have more people apply than we can hire,” said Rex Cameron, street superintendent for the town of about 3,500 people.

A crew of six to eight youths spends the summer cleaning, sorting, hauling and laying bricks as part of an annual program to rebuild one to two blocks of the city’s seven miles of brick streets.

Now, some Lawrence residents are wondering whether such a program could work in Lawrence. If not, they’re wondering what would because they say the city needs some sort of plan to maintain or rehabilitate Lawrence’s 46 miles of brick streets.

“I don’t think it is just an east Lawrence issue,” said Deron Belt, a member of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association who has been studying the brick street issue. “I think in any neighborhood that has brick streets, there’s a pretty strong incentive to keep them.

“I think any creative technique the city can come up with would be a good answer to the issue.”

The topic is set to get some attention at City Hall. A recent city audit recommended that Lawrence create a policy for deciding how to maintain its brick streets. The audit noted that some of the lower ranking streets in the city’s pavement condition index system are brick. That’s because the city doesn’t have a policy on whether those streets should be simply paved over, rebuilt as brick streets, or rebuilt as concrete or asphalt streets.

“We are going to need to do something as we get to those streets,” City Manager David Corliss said recently. “I know they add a lot of value to neighborhoods. We have to find a way to balance that value with the fact that we only have so much money for street maintenance.”

Cost concerns

Cost concerns have prevented the city from rebuilding more brick streets. Corliss estimates that rebuilding the streets can cost two to three times more than more modern methods of street construction or repair. But supporters of brick streets counter that maintenance costs of a well-constructed brick street can be much lower over time.

That’s been the experience in Holton, said City Manager Bret Bauer.

“If you do it right, it should last a very long time with very little maintenance,” Bauer said.

Lawrence has done two brick street projects in recent years — one along Ohio Street and the other along New York Street. Both projects used bricks that were more than 70 years old and were still in good condition. The streets had failed because the base under the bricks had deteriorated.

Holton leaders also are finding that constructing brick streets doesn’t have to be as expensive as once believed. Holton spends about $20,000 to $50,000 a year to rebuild one block of brick street, with costs varying based on how much concrete work crews have to do before the brick can be laid by the youths.

But Cameron said the fact the city uses the youth crews — plus the concrete work is done by full-time city employees rather than contractors — is a significant cost savings.

A Lawrence city block is wider and longer than one in Holton, but Lawrence spent about $200,000 per block to redo the brick on New York Street last summer, according to city engineers.

Other factors

Cameron said the program produces other benefits, too.

“The kids learn a lot and are proud of a job they have done for their community,” he said. “And they’re definitely in better shape.”

Lawrence hasn’t set a timeline for developing a brick street policy. Corliss and city engineers have said one of the first steps will be to review how many brick streets there are in the city that have been paved over with asphalt. Those streets — which include parts of Tennessee, 11th, 12th and 13th streets — likely won’t be good candidates to return to all-brick. But the remaining bricks from those streets could be used to rebuild brick streets in other parts of the community, city engineers have proposed.


Sigmund 6 years, 2 months ago

Gee, what happened to to crediting K.T. Walsh's progressive idea of using cheap child labor and paying low wages that was in the previous "Town Talk" section of the LJWorld?

I think it is a wonderfully progressive idea that needs to be discussed at the next City Commission meeting. Each Commissioner could discuss the advantages and disadvantages of how the idea of paying low wages to young workers could be expanded to other city departments such as meter readers for the water department, parking meter readers downtown, street sweeping, trash pickup and snow removal. We call them "shovel ready" jobs, apply for Federal Stimulus dollars, and call it recovery summer version 2.0!

There would be a almighty self righteous outcry from these very same folks if a Fortune 500 company wished to locate here proposing low wages and no benefits for young workers, but apparently when it comes to K.T. Walsh and brick streets, paying low wages to the youth of Lawrence who would actually "benefit from hot manual labor" for her private benefit trumps all those progressive ideals with the added benefit of improving her property. "Arbeit macht frei!"

Or in the alternative we could place an additional tax on K.T. Walsh and her progressive friends who think their brick streets are "quaint" and "cute" to actually cover the additional costs to the city tax payers for an adult labor force who are paid a living wage, with full health benefits. That would be the progressive thing to do.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

That was a beautiful dance with the straw man. But was it a waltz, or a tango?

LHS56 6 years, 2 months ago

Well written. Saved me a lot of time.

George_Braziller 6 years, 2 months ago

Wow. I think you have set a record for one of the most rambling and out-of-context posts ever.

optimist 6 years, 2 months ago

Great post. I wonder how the excessively high cost of re-bricking these streets sits with the "smart growth" crowd. I think in this case growth might be paying for re-bricking Old Lawrence. Maybe the city should charge an additional tax rate to homeowners that live on a brick street so they can pay for themselves. Let's see how "quaint" brick streets are then?

George_Braziller 6 years, 2 months ago

It isn't about "quaint" streets. Brick will easily last 100+ years if properly installed. Asphalt (or chip and seal) will be around for about 15 years or less and then it has to be ripped up again and replaced.

gatekeeper 6 years, 2 months ago

How about the city work on fixing all the paved streets that are torn to heck? Finishing the repaving in N. Lawrence that was supposed to have been done a year ago would be nice start.

Joe Hyde 6 years, 2 months ago

I wasn't all over North Lawrence this afternoon, but the parts of Elm and Locust streets that I drove on (plus their connector streets) had been recently repaved and the work looked fantastic. Better yet, those streets all drove fantastically smooth.

I didn't go anywhere north of the UP tracks, though. And you're right: those streets were promised repaving. So perhaps your dig is mostly accurate. I'll check it out next time I've over that way.

And to learn that Lawrence has 46 miles of brick streets. Amazing; I had no idea.

This is nothing against you at all, gatekeeper, but anyone who's ever met K.T. Walsh would like her a lot. She's one of Lawrence's bright lights.

jmadison 6 years, 2 months ago

But that wouldn't be the shared sacrifice that so may love. Does the city receive any federal funds for roads? If they do, would the Davis Bacon Act apply so that the minimum wage paid on such a project would be the prevailing union wage scale for masonry work?

lawslady 6 years, 2 months ago

There are statutes that allow citizens to ask the city to tax them for awhile in order to pay for needed/desired improvements that only impact their property. Look up "benefit districts" on the web or at I'm not saying that other people do not like the look of brick streets, or don't drive on them too. Just that if the general tax income isn't enough to pay for the minimum upkeep/repair/improvements, in the manner the residents wish, there is an alternative.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 2 months ago

There are lots of things that my taxes pay for that I don't care for or about, however, the system is not set up a la carte.

2002 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't live on a brick street, but I support your idea. So those that live on asphalt street should pay their share. They get more pot holes, need to be sealed more often and don't last as long. Over time brick streets are cheaper. Where so they send the bill consumer1?

BruceWayne 6 years, 2 months ago

Core-less will find a way to F this up...he always does.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 2 months ago

The City of Topeka uses slave labor (women prisoners) to repair all their brick roads. Prisoners don't get paid much.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 2 months ago

The slaves pull up the brick, lay and level a new sand base, then replace the original brick.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 2 months ago

It's not that hard, or expensive, to repair brick roads....unless you pay a consultant and contractor to do it.

somedude20 6 years, 2 months ago

36-24-36, now that is a brick house! (FYI AC/DC also used the same measurements in their song "A Whole Lotta Rosie")

gphawk89 6 years, 2 months ago

Nah. Any true AC/DC fan knows it's 42-39-56.

Sigmund 6 years, 2 months ago

riverat (Joe Hyde) replies… "This is nothing against you at all, gatekeeper, but anyone who's ever met K.T. Walsh would like her a lot. She's one of Lawrence's bright lights."

Really? In a "I'm all progressive, living wage and stuff until I have to pay for it out of own pocket" kind of way, or in a "I don't care if I use more than my share of city street maintenance dollars because I my brick street is special" kind of way?

Sigmund 6 years, 2 months ago

George_Braziller (anonymous) replies… "Wow. I think you have set a record for one of the most rambling and out-of-context posts ever."

On second reading you may have a point I was trying point out both the progressive's hypocrisy as well as their sense of entitlement and elitism. Probably overly ambitious for just one post and the points should have been made separately.

But I am continuously astonished how often the City of Lawrence bends over backwards to cater to the whims of downtown landlords and their neighbors, especially the Old West Lawrence Neighborhood Association, when other parts of Lawrence suffer from neglect. Just how many times does the City Commission need to suddenly run out of funds when in needs to purchase new fire equipment or hire police officers that would benefit all of Lawrence before your realize the buddies of the Commission get theirs first and everyone else in Lawrence get the leftovers?

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