City: ‘We can’t spend money we don’t have’
A pair of streets will not be accepted byThomasville following a split vote at Monday night's council meeting.
Thomasville City Council voted 4-2 to not accept Fleer Avenue east of Cedar Drive for maintenance. Council sent a similar request for Cardinal Creek back to committee for further discussion.
Council members Raleigh York, Scott Styers, Jackie Jackson and Pat Shelton voted against accepting Fleer Avenue for maintenance, citing a lack of available Powell Bill funds, money collected by the state via a gasoline tax and dispersed to municipalities for road repairs. Councilmen Ronald Bratton and Joel Pierce voted for the acceptance.
"I can't in good conscience vote to spend more money that we don't have,” Styers said. "I can not in good conscience vote to take more streets in to pave when we can't even pave the ones we already have that have been in the city for many years and were accepted by the city.”
City Manager Kelly Craver said Thomasville is receiving approximately 65 percent of the Powell Bill funds it did five years ago due to the recession and a decline in the demand for gasoline. The decrease is causing the city to dip into its reserve funds, which is an option getting ready to run out.
"We normally like to keep a year's worth of reserve funds on hand, which used to be around $1 million," said Craver. "At the end of this year we'll have just over $300,000. We've gone in and spent reserve funds totaling about $300,000 a year for the last three years. Those funds are dwindling and our reserve funds are almost gone."
Bratton said the residents of Fleer Avenue were involuntarily annexed by the city more than a decade ago and probably expected their street to be maintained.
"They were involuntarily annexed and I'm sure those people thought they were going to get city services," Bratton said. "I think we should do everything to help the citizens of Thomasville within reason."
Fleer Avenue resident Steve Bodenhamer, after addressing council during a public forum, said he plans to pursue the matter in the future.
"We're disappointed, of course, but we'll try again next year," said Bodenhamer, who has lived at the corner of Fleer Avenue and Cedar Drive for four years. "We feel like it's important for the safety and to keep the neighborhood nice so we'll keep trying. I understand everybody is hurting now, but there are vehicles that travel on this road that take a beating going through the potholes."
Accepting Cardinal Creek for maintenance never reached a vote as council elected to send the issue back to committee. Pierce said matters such as a portion of Cardinal Creek falling in a flood plain and replacing an inadequate pipe need to be looked at further. If the area should flood, would emergency services be able to reach residents in need of help, he questioned.
"To me, that's a safety issue and goes far beyond the condition of a street," Pierce said. "It goes to the safety of our citizens. I would hate for something to happen to someone should that street disappear, and it very well could with hard rains. I think that the folks who have brought this to our attention deserve an honest debate about it."
Styers is worried the state legislature one day will push all paving responsibility down to municipalities, creating an even bigger burden for the city.
"I'm sympathetic to your cause and I encourage you to petition the state," Styers told the Fleer Avenue residents who spoke during the public forum. "In the future we're going to be in a much more rough shape than we already are."
York emphasized that street repairs and maintenance are paid for using Powell Bill funds and not money collected via property tax.
"We don't have enough money coming in on Powell Bill funds to keep up the streets we currently have," said York. "I certainly would like to save everybody's street and bring them up to the best standards possible, but we just don't have the funds now."
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.