By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
The Monticello City Council spent a lot of time discussing one item in particular during the regular Council meeting on Feb. 18, concerning Amber Road/X-44.
County Engineer Derek Snead was on hand during the meeting to answer any questions the Council had on the project. The city has been discussing this project at great length for several weeks now, looking at whether to participate with the county in the project or look into the city hiring out.
Snead said Amber Road is the second oldest road in Jones County, having been put in place in 1965.
“It’s deteriorating pretty fast,” Snead said.
City Administrator Doug Herman received a preliminary estimate should the city tackle this project by tearing out and replacing the city portion of the road, at around $96,667. Should the city opt in with the county, the preliminary estimate is around $128,000 plus engineering fees. Herman informed the Council that there is $150,000 in the city budget for the coming fiscal year for road projects, whether the city goes ahead with Amber Road and/or other miscellaneous city road projects.
“We will have to borrow some money, though,” Herman stipulated.
He said, like the county, the city could apply for STP (surface transportation program) funds for the Amber Road project, but there is no guarantee how much the city could get.
“Typically, STP funds stays out of city limits,” Herman said. A portion of Amber Road is within city limits.
Snead said the county gets between $250,000 and $300,000 in STP funds, “but even that amount doesn’t go very far.”
He said the county is looking to start patching on Amber Road later this year. That would be phase one of the project. Phase two, the following year, would include a concrete overlay. The project also includes widening the slopes and culverts.
“If you just patch that road,” said Snead, “it’s not a wise investment. Problems will continue.”
Council member Bill Meyer questioned whether excess weight traveling on Amber Road has caused any of the problems. Snead said it’s the age of the road, which he was surprised has lasted this long. He said typical road life is 25 to 40 years. Amber Road is nearing 50 years old.
Council member Dave Goedken said while this road has not been on the city’s radar as needing attention, he felt working with the county was a wise choice.
“It needs to be fully repaired and uniform,” commented Goedken.
Council member John Sauser felt differently saying, “Our money could be put to better use on our own streets.” Sauser said Amber Road is not as heavily used by city residents as in-town streets in disrepair. “There are streets in town we need to take care of.”
A portion of Amber Road was annexed into city limits a number of years ago, which Goedken pointed out. “Why did the city annex that area if we’re not going to take care of the road?” questioned Goedken. “We’re wasting taxpayers’ money if we don’t jump on the bandwagon here.”
With no final cost in place as of yet, Snead said the county can’t proceed with a set cost until they know whether the city wishes to participate in the project, to know how much of the road will be included. Snead said the county is not going to spend the money to design the project for the whole road if the city doesn’t want to take part.
Mayor Dena Himes informed the Council that they need to decide whether to go through with Amber Road and put other city street projects on hold or borrow money for these projects.
City Engineer Patrick Schwickerath commented that Amber Road is a gateway into the city, and if the city doesn’t fully take part in the project, it could be noticeable.
“A lot of people travel that road into this community,” observed Goedken. “I’ve had more than my ear full of calls on the condition of the road.”
The City Council finally voted 4-1 to approve sharing in the cost with the county for Amber Road, with Sauser opposing the vote.
Early time estimates from Snead look at letting the project in July/August and an early start date in October.