Brimfield sets sights on streets

By Jeremy Nobile | Staff Writer Published:

Brimfield's roads are in bad shape, potholes are adding up and street projects are behind, but township officials assert they're poised for improvement.

Officials say a harsh winter, wet spring and summer all complicated recent problems with personnel that, together, have resulted in street projects falling behind.

The roads are in such bad shape, trustees have declined to approach residents with a road levy renewal this fall, anticipating a lack of public support.

The budget for road repairs is supported predominantly by a 0.95-mill, five-year operating levy approved by voters in May 2010 that provides about $209,000 in revenue for projects. The earliest the township could bring a replacement or renewal road levy before voters would be this November.

Trustees said they'll revisit the issue next spring in hopes more projects will be completed and voters will be happier with the state of their streets.

"Our roads suck," said Trustee Mike Kostensky. "Things were moving slow. But we're more focused now. Things are getting better."

Last month, Public Works Director Jim Nethken, former head of the road department, resigned largely because of managerial differences with Brimfield trustees, Kostensky said.

"Some things I thought were a priority, our old public works director didn't think was a priority," Kostensky said.

While the township looks to fill Nethken's position with a permanent road superintendent, Robert Keller, township executive and fire chief, is taking the reins in the meantime.

But Keller said filling the department head is just one of many personnel issues that have put road projects behind.

The township's public works crew comprises a full-time staff of four, including the director, plus a part-time seasonal laborer who works the summer through September.

Organization and focus in the road department has been one issue, Keller said.

The township purchased a Dura-Patch machine in March for about $65,000 in general fund money, for example. The machine allows workers to fill smaller potholes, but not larger ones because the gravel it lays is too small.

Despite a variety of potholes to fill, that machine has not been used once -- and Keller said officials can't say why, noting they can't speak for how Nethken was running the department. Keller did say, however, he anticipates the machine being used more in the future to fix smaller holes in residential neighborhoods.

Staff insubordination was another problem. Over the past several months, Keller said workers in the small road crew have either quit or been fired for poor conduct, so the department has rarely been at full staff this year.

Meanwhile, flooding issues have taken priority over roads. The short-staffed department has spent lots of time this year clearing drains and culverts to abate flooding problems, particularly in more residential neighborhoods -- and streets get less attention as a result.

"It was a harsh winter coupled with growing demand from the community on the roads," Keller said, referencing more traffic over time by function of the township's growing population. "It was overwhelming the resources of the public works. They were having trouble keeping up with everything."

With a renewed vision for the roads, different management and the potential for a full staff soon, Keller said Brimfield is on track for improvements -- even though some road projects are going on three years behind.

Trustees recently approved a $94,000 contract to have the south side of the Beechcrest Allotment subdivision repaired, which includes Fairwood Road and streets coming off of it, plus Gary Drive. That project is to be finished in early September.

A different project will be bid out soon to mill and repave small streets off Cline Road, including Troyer and Bull drives and Skyview Lane. Keller said officials hope to complete that this fall.

Lynn Road, which connects to recently resurfaced Sherman Road, is also on the list, while patch work will be completed more regularly as the road staff is bulked up.

Keller has even composed a running list of potholes that will be addressed soon. Streets on that list include Sunnybrook Road, Deer Run, and Hunters Ridge Drive among many others. He said some of those will likely be sub-contracted out, otherwise, the department will never catch up.

Dick Messner, Brimfield's community development director and zoning inspector, wants to see roads improved for the benefit of economic development. He estimated Wednesday that of Brimfield's approximately 42 miles of roads, 36 miles worth need some kind of work.

"I just want the residents to know that we're trying to get people hired, we're trying to get back up to our full complement of personnel so we can get down all these streets quicker," Keller said. "We are coming. We will get the potholes."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or jnobile@recordpub.com

Facebook: Jeremy Nobile, Record-Courier

Twitter: @jnobile_RPC

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