Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TOP STORY >> Still looking to fix bad street repair

Leader staff writer

Four blocks of Palm Street, which is used by Lonoke school buses and students, is literally breaking apart and has been for some time now.

“No one is offering to do anything,” Mayor Wayne McGee said Friday. “It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. No one is accepting blame, and no one wants to help defray the $200,000 cost to repair the road.”

The Lonoke City Council recently authorized the mayor to initiate any action against or with the state Highway Department and/or the contractor, the Rogers Group, to fix a quarter-mile stretch of Palm Street, rendered impassible since shortly after it was resurfaced.

The mayor is still waiting to hear about options from City Attorney Ginger Stuart.

Something needs to be done, as portions of the street have been closed because it is so spongy that vehicles are bottoming out, he noted.

Most of the overlay work the Rogers Group did in the city is fine, but, on Palm Street, the company had to mill down the road, build it back up and then asphalt it.

They cut the asphalt too low, to the gravel, the mayor said.

McGee said the state claims it was only administrating the funds for the statewide street fund.

He said the state, through a highway tax, had about $250,000 for milling and asphalting streets in Lonoke.

“The Highway Department came out, looked at our suggested street list, made the decision, hired the contractor and had inspectors out. Once they picked the streets, we had no say in the matter,” McGee explained.

The paving contractors say they did what they were paid to do, according to the mayor.

While the city seeks help in repairing the road properly, McGee says it will cost the Lonoke School District money. “They need to build a gate and a culvert to be able to use a different route until repairs are made,” he said. “It will be a costly hardship.”

Alderman Pat Howell, at the council meetings, said Palm Street has been there for 65 years and never closed, “but it failed three months after Rogers repaired it.”

“With this rain, it will definitely become a mess,” the mayor said. “It’s one place where dry weather has been a plus. I just hate that it’s taxpayers’ money that has been wasted. I want our street fixed, and I don’t want it happening to anyone else.”

The whole project, several city blocks, was done for $275,000, according to Howell, and now contractors want $200,000 to repair a fraction of that.

The mayor said the city going in and tearing out four blocks of asphalt to do it right would cost between $180,000 and $200,000. “That would be our paving budget for the next two to three years,” he said.