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The amount of money being invested in local road repairs this year is at a 10-year high, and city officials want to maintain that level for years to come.
About $1.1 million in the street and sidewalk program will pay for various improvements this year on some of the city's most deteriorated roads.
That money includes more than $700,000 in state and federal grants from sources like the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study and the Ohio Public Works Commission and about $400,000 kicked in from city coffers -- which compares to the $250,000 put toward the same program from city budgets in 2012.
City Engineer Jim Bowling said that amount is the highest it's been in at least a decade.
The street and sidewalk program excludes more extensive road projects subsidized through capital improvements funds.
"There's other work being done to repair and replace the streets in the city that are not included in the street and sidewalk program," Bowling noted.
Portions of Crain Avenue, Franklin Avenue and North DePeyster Street are among roads that will see resurfacing this year. Those streets had sidewalk repairs completed last year.
Meanwhile smaller, residential roads in severe disrepair -- like Starr Avenue, which has a rating of 9/100, and Randall Drive, which has a 30/100 rating -- will see sealcoat repairs.
"We're planning on getting all those done in 2013 with the potential that some may slip to 2014," Bowling said.
On a rating 100-point rating scale, Bowling said Kent's streets are at about a 67 overall. According to city analyses, if that level of funding can be maintained annually through the next 10 years, that rating would be upgraded from a "fair" rating to "good."
"That $1.1 million level will allow us to increase the general pavement condition rating in the city from 67 to 70," Bowling said, "and that's what we're trying to get to. We know we're not going to have a perfect rating on streets. We know there's always going to be work to do, but we've targeted that amount of investment to achieve that level of service."
"Pavement condition rating is a reflection of how much the city and its citizens want to invest in the streets," Bowling added. "There's no way to get high pavement ratings without high investment -- it's just not possible."
About $178,000 of that total has come directly from income tax collections, which are higher this year in the wake of activity in Kent's redeveloped downtown. Per the city charter, 25 percent of income taxes must go toward capital improvements, Bowling explained, and a significant portion of that has been allocated for the roads.
"If the downtown didn't happen, we wouldn't have that income tax growth that we're seeking," Bowling said. "We put it there because that's where we feel the biggest need is."
Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala, who considers road repair among the city's top priorities, said he's pleased to see the money going toward roads this season, but noted he'd like to see even more work done.
"We're doing some real work and sidewalk repair, it's just becoming overwhelming with the repairs that are needed to be done," Fiala said. "We need more resources to do more."
"If we don't address this now, it's only going to be worse and more expensive down the road," he added.
Grant money is one of the options, and Kent has been successful in attracting its "fair share," Fiala said, despite the scarce and highly competitive resources available from the state.
"We're striving to get to that $1.1 million in our streets and sidewalks and we're striving to do that by many different methods including searching for grants and other financing," Bowling said. "The city truly has been making the most of its opportunities to get more money into Kent's streets without adding additional tax burden to the citizens."
Referencing the income tax revenue bolstering road repairs this season, Fiala said he's optimistic the success of the business sector, particularly in the redeveloped downtown, will also help pay for future road work.
"Hopefully, in a few years, when tax revenues from downtown level off, we can disburse some of that money into the neighborhoods," Fiala said.
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or email@example.com
Roads slated for resurfacing this year comprise:
Crain Avenue (from Water Street to Willow Street)
Fairchild Avenue (from Majors Lane to Hudson Drive)
Franklin Avenue (from Cherry Street to Summit Street)
Majors Lane (from Main Street to Fairchild Avenue)
North Depeyster Street (from Main Street to Crain Avenue)
Residential streets slated for sealcoat repairs include:
Majors Lane (north of Fairchild Avenue)
Verona Avenue (north of Adamle Drive)