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Council eyes city curbs

Money could be used to rehabilitate, replace curbing

City Council on Monday approved a new five-year capital improvement plan that calls for borrowing $8 million in the coming two years — yet the focus of discussion was a $251,000 allocation for replacement of curbs.

Currently, the city doesn’t invest anything in curb repair or replacement, and the $251,000 allocated for next year is only enough to do four block faces — which is next to nothing compared to the overall need, said officials, prompted by Councilman Bruce Kelley.

Accordingly, while council let the proposed $251,000 stand, it called on Public Works Director Nate Kissell to put together a long-term plan for overhauling as needed all the city’s curbs — which, along with sidewalks and street trees, increase property values, while channeling water to prevent flooding and helping to keep cars away from pedestrians and yards, according to Interim City Manager Peter Marshall and others.

The four block faces included in the plan approved Monday represent only about 1/500th of the potential curbing in the city, which has 180 lane-miles of streets, according to information provided by Kissell.

“You’re talking a 100-year implementation,” Kissell said.

Council envisions allocating money annually to rehabilitate, replace or add curbing where needed in a rotation like the one the city uses for paving.

The streets rotation is about 20 years, which is enabling the city to catch up with a paving deficit that developed during five recent years in the state’s Act 47 distressed municipalities plan and during the financially stressed years prior to that, according to Kissell.

The streets rotation is about 20 years, which is enabling the city to catch up with a paving deficit that developed during five recent years in the state’s Act 47 distressed municipalities plan and during the financially stressed years prior to that, according to Kissell.

It might make sense to start repairing and replacing curbs in earnest in the heart of the city, where curbs already exist, rather than in areas like Eldorado, Garden Heights and Hileman Heights, where there are none — and where adding curbs would probably mean rebuilding entire street systems, and in some cases constructing storm sewers, according to Kissell.

Among the issues for the existing curbs are lost “reveals” caused by the buildup of asphalt, Kissell said.

It would make sense to look for “the worst areas” first, he said.

Once in place, curbing can last 75 years, according to Marshall.

Replacing curbs where the sidewalks would also need replaced will present an opportunity for “public-private partnerships,” said Councilman Dave Butterbaugh.

The city can pay for the curbing, while property owners can pay for the sidewalks, he said.

Property owners might not be willing if their sidewalks are in good condition, Kelley suggested.

Property owners can be required to pay through property assessments, Marshall said.

The city could do all the work with a dedicated, in-house crew, Marshall said.

The city might be able to accelerate the process by encouraging PennDOT to authorize more Safe-Routes-to-School projects, which involve construction of sidewalks that younger students can use to go to and from classes, Kelley said.

The first year of the five-year plan will become part of the 2020 capital budget, Marshall said.

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