March 6, 2013
City to borrow for paving
$1 million credit line will allow more streets to be resurfaced
Cortland’s streets need to be paved at a faster rate and the answer lies with a $1 million line of credit, the city Common Council decided Tuesday.
The council unanimously approved a measure to seek the line of credit and use state funding, about $229,000 per year, as repayment on the principal while paying interest from the general fund.
The vote was 6-0 with Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) absent.
The line of credit would be for five years, with the money used the first three years for paving and the other two years for maintenance. A new five-year cycle would then begin.
The city will seek proposals from lending institutions for the credit line.
The interest should total about $65,000 for five years, said Mack Cook, city director of administration and finance. He said bonding, which past councils have done to finance street paving, is not a solid practice in this case and would not be necessary.
But paving the streets is necessary, he said, backed by comments from real estate developer Jim Reeners and real estate agent Jamie Yaman.
Reeners and Yaman said streets represent part of a neighborhood’s overall quality of life and can deter people from moving to Cortland.
The state funding comes from the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, called CHIPS. The money has many restrictions but can be used by a municipality to pay back a loan, Cook said.
He said the city will pay more over time in trying to maintain streets if it does not take a more proactive approach now. The rising cost of oil, used in making asphalt, will add to the costs of paving.
“We’re going to have to continue to pave streets and we’re going to have to continue to use CHIPS money,” Cook said. “We should stay ahead of the curve.”
He said he is confident the CHIPS money, which comes from state and federal gasoline taxes, will remain in place in future state budgets, although he does not expect it to increase.
The CHIPS money Cortland receives each year allows for only about four streets to be paved, said Chris Bistocchi, city Department of Public Works superintendent. He said he has 25 streets he would like to pave, which would take six years at the current pace.
He offered the council a list of nine or 10 streets for this year, including Parker, Homer and Mildred avenues.
Alderman John Bennett (D-4th Ward) asked Bistocchi if he really thought 10 streets could be paved this year, for a cost of $705,000. Bistocchi said no, his department would more likely spend $550,000 to $600,000.
Cook said the city’s debt is going down each year to the point that he thinks the fourth and fifth years of the credit period could be paid more easily from the general fund.
He said there will be $305,000 less debt service after 2015, although he said rising personnel costs and other budget lines will lessen that figure so it will not be that much but will still be enough to use on the line of credit.
Bistocchi said paving lasts eight to 10 years, depending on traffic on the street and other conditions.
Cook, Reeners and Yaman said the line of credit should not be the “end product” in Cortland’s street maintenance, that the council should create a long-term fund for maintenance.
Yaman said he has a difficult time selling people on buying houses in Cortland, when they move to the area to work for the larger employers such as SUNY Cortland or Intertek.
Bistocchi told aldermen he also tries to work with New York State Electric and Gas as it tears up streets to install natural gas lines.
He said NYSEG is fairly cooperative, although it tore up Clayton Avenue last year after the city repaved it.
He said the water main beneath East Main Street needs to be replaced. He said potholes are more of a problem this winter because of days when the temperature is 40 degrees and nights when it falls to 20 degrees.
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