City getting most out of paving dollars

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 11, 2008

While the cost of oil is going down, city officials decided notto take the chance that the cost of asphalt would do the same, andare paving their second round of city streets for the year.

The board of aldermen recently approved doing the paving earlyin order to purchase the asphalt at the initial bid price, as bidsare good for six months. The board agreed to go ahead and get thepaving done and take the money out of the 2008-2009 budget, sayingit would mean they could get more paving for the money.

Each alderman and the mayor turned in their requests for streetsthey would like to see paved, and a crew from Dickerson and Bowenis going down the list and knocking them out one by one.

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Public Works Director Steve Moreton said the bid runs out inSeptember, so the crews were in Brookhaven all week making old,dilapidated roads all bright and new.

“We have $32,000 budgeted for next year, and it was allocated toall the aldermen, and they all picked the streets they wanted us todo,” he said. “We’re doing the paving for next year now, because weknow the price is going to go up.”

Moreton said when the decision was made, it was before anyrelief was in sight on the cost of oil, and that as the price ofoil goes, so goes the price of asphalt.

“But it’s coming down now,” he said. “I really don’t know thatit will continue to come down, and that’s not something we want togamble on, so we’re doing it now.”

Moreton said the contracted crew, which worked all last week toget done what they could, has another job to do in coming weeks,but that they will return to finish out the paving pendingcompletion of their next assignment.

And one thing the guys have been careful to do, Moreton said, isuse every iota of pavement in the trucks, down to scooping it outwith shovels to put on the road almost by hand.

“You’ve seen at the gas stations where people will do all sortsof crazy things to get every possible drop of gas out of thathose,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing with the asphalt. We don’twant to waste even a shovelful.”

The work has gone smoothly for the most part, Moreton said,pointing out that anyone looking at the place where the old pavingends and the new paving begins can see the progress. And it hasbeen well-received in the neighborhoods, he said.

“We had kids ready with their bicycles in Brignall, standing onthe side of the streets waiting for us to finish,” he said. “Assoon as we drove away they started riding.”

The only trouble his guys have run into, Moreton said, comesfrom people who want to drive through the areas that are beingpaved even though they are clearly marked and blocked off tooncoming traffic.

“We would just ask that when you see the barricades and trucksand cones blocking the road, that you not insist on driving inbehind them,” he said. “Part of it is for your own good, becausethat paving is sticky and black and gooey, and it gets on your car,and if you’re driving around on it when you’re not supposed to, wecan’t keep that from happening.”

Moreton said, laughing, that the “Do Not Enter” concept doesseem a little tough for some motorists.

“This isn’t New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles,” he said.”One city block in Brookhaven isn’t that big. But some people justdon’t want to go up a street.”

But aside from the humor of absent-minded or stubborn motoristswho insist on driving in the workspaces, Moreton appealed todrivers based on safety for the crews.

“This is a thankless job, and much-needed work that these guysare doing,” he said. “They’re not expecting to have cars comingbehind them. When you see the flashy barricades and lights andsigns, it’s because we’re trying to protect these guys and get youa good finished product, so please help us out.”

The streets involved in the paving project that have been pavedalready are: Union Street from Highway 51 to the railroad tracksnear Church Street and Vivian Merritt from Mamie Martin School toNorth Jackson in Ward Six; Field Lark Lane in two places and a spoton Gleason Road in Ward Five. Parts of Railroad Avenue were pavedat the request of the mayor; as well as Amite Street from BrignallRoad to Fortune Road, Harvard Road from Brignall to Madison Street,and 525 feet of gravel has been paved on Cedar Street Extension inWard One.

Ward Three improvements include East Chickasaw Street from SouthSecond to Washington Street.

When the crew returns to Brookhaven, Moreton said they willbegin work on Brookhaven Street from Brookway Boulevard up to thepost office in Ward Five; East Washington from the intersection ofSouth Washington up to Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive in Ward Two.Rance Street from South Washington to Vanzie Street and St. CharlesPlace in Ward Three will be paved; as will the intersection infront of Brookhaven Elementary School at Church Street andChickasaw Street and Smylie Drive from Comstock Street up toChippewa Street, as well as Tanglewood Drive from Zetus Road up toDogwood Drive, including the cul de sac of Dogwood in WardFour.

There are other possible jobs in the works as well, depending onhow much money has been used up, Moreton said.