Ongoing repairs for a city street has reportedly drawn citizen complaints, prompting a city official to ask for regular updates on such city projects to better keep the public informed.
For the past several weeks, crews have been working to repair, mill and overlay North Jefferson Avenue.
During an El Dorado City Council meeting Thursday, Alderman Billy Blann — who represents Ward 1, Position 1, where that section of North Jefferson is located — said he had received complaints from some of his constituents about the weeks-long project.
“It’s now in the sixth week. I’ve gotten calls, and I didn’t know about it,” Blann said, adding later, “I think we’re missing an opportunity here. We have to do more PR, and we need to try to give a reliable timeline so people will know how long it’s going to take.”
Mayor Frank Hash said city crews were tied up with preparations for the opening of the Murphy Arts District.
He also said the city does not own much of the heavy machinery and equipment that is being used to perform the work.
Hash and City Attorney Henry Kinslow noted that paving and milling machines were temporarily pulled off Jefferson Avenue for other jobs.
“We have to get in the queue, and if anything disrupts the queue, there’s going to be a delay,” Hash said.
Robert Edmonds, director of public works, made similar statements Friday, explaining that the Jefferson project has many moving parts, and
several of those parts have contributed to the slow pace of the job.
Edmonds and Hash said crews discovered several base failures that had to be repaired along the four-block route.
“All of that had to be excavated, refilled and compacted. There was a lot to do. Each failure had to be dug out and refilled,” Edmonds said. “If we hadn’t had those base failures in the street, we could have milled and overlaid it in a couple of days.”
Edmonds said workers could have patched the faults, but the problems would have recurred “in a couple of months.”
“It’s not fast work, but it’s necessary, or we’re just throwing money away. It’s a long-term fix for that street,” Edmonds said.
He also said that while Jefferson has been milled for a few days, making for a rough, bumpy ride for motorists, the street has not been “torn up” throughout the duration of the project.
Other considerations are other infrastructure in the area and the number of crews that are working on the project.
In addition to the city street department, two outside contractors and the El Dorado Water Utilities have had to carefully work around a minefield of water, sewer, gas and fiber optic utilities.
Edmonds concurred with Hash’s statements about machinery the city does not own being dedicated to other projects.
“Equipment being pulled off, equipment failure — you name it. There’s lots of variables there,” the director of public works said.
With the unexpected discovery of the faults in the street, Edmonds said that even if the machinery had been available full time, the street project likely would have not moved much faster.
Barring any further delays, the overlay of that section of Jefferson was expected to be completed on Friday.
Re-striping will follow a few days later, Edmonds said.
“I know we did it a little fast with the downtown streets, but it’s best to let traffic run over it a couple of weeks before re-striping it,” he said.
Edmonds said he was aware of some of the complaints, and he and Hash visited the site with Blann last week.
“I told him what was going and what happened, and I thought we were all on the same page,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds and Hash said residents in the area have also commended the city for repairing that section of Jefferson.
To keep council members abreast of such projects, Blann asked that emails be sent out regularly to aldermen.
He also requested that the emails include information about bid openings for the projects.
Hash said notifications about the bid openings are published in the newspaper.
“Well, I would like an email, so I can attend” Blann insisted, adding that he would like to be armed with information to pass on to the council’s constituency should any complaints, questions or comments arise.
“I’m not trivializing the complaints, but when you’re doing these types of repairs, sometimes things come up,” Hash said. “They got bogged down in other things that had to be done.’
Once the Jefferson project is completed, crews will move back downtown to finish Cleveland and Oak, both of which have been milled.
“My contractor may have to move out and come back,” Edmonds said.
Weather permitting, Edmonds said he also hopes to get to Pecan Street between South Jackson and Neal.
“If there’s money left in the ($1.7 million budget), we’re hoping to do a couple of more streets after that. We’re going to try and get it done before it gets too cold,” he said.
The $1.7 million includes the more than $800,000 that was pulled from the city’s reserve coffers in July to resurface several downtown streets in preparation for MAD.
The downtown street repairs had already been scheduled, but the work was expected to come later and was not included in the 2017 budget.
Plus, city officials said at the time that some downtown streets had received minor damage due to MAD construction.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.