FORT WAYNE — Fort Wayne streets are in need of $65 million in repairs, yet finding a way to close that gap will likely involve tough choices for city leaders.
The City Council on Tuesday discussed the problems facing the city’s infrastructure as it unanimously approved an $887,582 contract with Wayne Asphalt to resurface some city streets.
Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, questioned whether a report released last week to the council on city finances was accurate. The report, compiled by Mayor Tom Henry’s fiscal policy team, said the city faces stiff financial challenges to keep its road system maintained.
“The city has both a backlog in street repair and resurfacing needs of approximately $65 million and an annual shortfall of approximately $12 (million) to $18 million to keep pace with an industry accepted resurfacing schedule,” according to the report.
Mario Trevino, with the city’s transportation administration, said he was unsure about the exact amounts but said the figures sounded close to correct. He said he would be more than happy to invest more money into street repairs.
“Bring it on,” he said.
The city this year spent $3.5 million from a state accounting error to supplement street repair. But even with that extra money, city officials said they would only be doing about the same amount of road work as was done in 2011.
Councilman Mitch Harper, R-4th, said past decisions to borrow money against city income taxes has limited the amount of revenue to be used for infrastructure improvements. The 2012 budget calls for spending $19.6 million in economic development income tax revenue. Of that, $13.6 million will be spent on debt service and $3.1 million will be spent on infrastructure.
Allowing streets to fall into disrepair not only hurts transportation but diminishes neighborhood wealth by reducing property values, Harper said. The council failed to take the opportunity when the wheel and surtaxes were raised on vehicle licenses to dedicate that new revenue to neighborhood streets, Harper said.
Crawford said the council will have several difficult decisions to make to meet this challenge. This includes whether money from the lease and sale of the city’s electric utility should be used on projects that might help the community or on infrastructure projects that clearly will help neighborhoods.