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Salem council looks to next year’s road projects

August 20, 2016 GMT

SALEM - As this year’s paving project nears completion, Salem City Council and the Streets, Alleys & Sidewalks Committee have made some decisions in preparation for next year’s work.

Based on the committee’s recommendation, council this week authorized Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst to advertise for requests for qualifications and enter into contract for engineering services for the 2017 streets project.

The ordinance also specified who would evaluate the engineering qualifications based on criteria and scoring and negotiate and enter into contract for the engineering services. The three people named in the ordinance include Mayor John Berlin, Assistant Utilities Superintendent Matt Hoopes and Councilman Brian Whitehill. Whitehill abstained from voting after the rest of council voted to allow him to abstain since he’s part of the ordinance.

Last year’s qualifications-based selection process for engineering for this year’s paving project drew criticism and questioning by Councilman Clyde Brown, who raised issues with how the firms were graded, particularly by Kenst and city Auditor Betty Brothers. The mayor had also been involved with the grading. He is again involved, along with Hoopes who has gone through the process numerous times for the utilities department and Whitehill as a representative of council, who’s not on the Streets, Alleys & Sidewalks Committee.

Brown made a comment about the mayor not wanting him as one of the three people, saying he would go along with the ordinance, but Berlin explained the committee indicated during a previous meeting that three was the magic number and he checked with the law director and was told it’s his decision to make regarding who should serve as part of the grading process. He also said if Brown was chosen, he would have to recuse himself from voting on the legislation and he’s the chairman of the committee. That was made clear by the law director due to a conflict.

During the committee meeting this week, before council, Councilman Geoff Goll said he found the standardized rating system fair to all engineers who might wish to submit their qualifications. His only concern was the weight being given on the scoring sheet for any firm that has done past performance for the city.

Brown again questioned the category regarding distance from the work site, saying the criteria is a little unfair. He said he understood the idea of wanting business local.

The committee also approved a tentative street list for next year’s paving project with at least $1.7 million worth of work. Berlin explained that he subtracted out the pending projects related to storm sewers and waterline replacements and Community Development Block Grant funds from the original estimate of $2.3 million, noting that it’s subject to change once an engineer prepares a cost estimate. All the paving is made possible by a .25 percent increase in the city income tax, with the increase set aside specifically for improvement projects for streets, alleys, sidewalks, storm sewers and curbs.

Streets on the list to be paving include South Broadway Avenue from East State Street to East Euclid Street, North Ellsworth Avenue from State to 10th Street, Highland Avenue from State to East 11th Street, Jefferson Avenue from Southeast Boulevard to Whinnery Road, Jennings Avenue from West State Street to north of the bypass, South Lincoln Avenue from Franklin to the corporation line, East Pershing Street from the stop sign to the sanitary pump station, Eichler’s Alley from West Wilson to Prospect and two unnamed alleys in the area of South Avenue and Newgarden/Liberty.

Berlin said Maple Street from Franklin Avenue to South Union Avenue and Washington Avenue from East State Street to Maple Street will be done through CDBG money and capital improvement funds.

The committee approved two drainage projects and decided to have the costs covered by the .25 percent income tax money. Goll had asked about the projects and whether Kenst had received the cost estimates from Howells & Baird as promised. The estimated costs are $107,000 for Monroe/Southeast Boulevard and $60,000 for Jennings Avenue near Rea Drive.

There was discussion on using the additional income tax funds for a portion of the project, getting the rest from a fund that still has $40,000 to $60,000 in it for the storm sewers. There was also talk about using capital improvement funds, with Berlin saying he would need to know if the committee wanted the projects to go forward so he could plan for them in the capital improvements budget. Brown had said to use capital improvements, but Goll said to use the income tax money since that will free up capital improvement funds for other needs.

Berlin also said the money in the storm sewer fund would be helpful to have in case of a problem that may come up during the year, prompting the committee to suggest all the funds for the two storm sewer projects come from the income tax.

In other business, council approved the third reading and passage of an ordinance regarding liability insurance for taxicabs and other transit vehicles and held second reading on the change in the income tax split from 85-15 to 80-20 to get more money into capital improvements. The bigger percentage goes to the general fund.

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