Well-paved roads more important than aesthetics
Some Warren City Council members want to see more money set aside in next year’s budget for road paving and sidewalk improvements, including examining the possibility of funding these types of projects with the city’s recently renewed 0.5 percent income tax.
Warren Councilman John Brown, D-at Large, said this month he wants to see more road improvements. Councilman Ron White, D-7th Ward, wants to see improvements made to city sidewalks in his ward.
These points are valid. Good streets and sidewalks are an important part of local infrastructure that makes a city more welcoming to business, residents and visitors.
Indeed, hard decisions always must be made with limited public funds, and we need our elected officials to plan well and make good, informed choices on spending.
During a recent discussion on the topic of roads and sidewalks, Warren Law Director Enzo Cantalamessa was quick to point out that the 0.5 percent income tax cannot be used for sidewalk upgrades because language used when the income tax was written and passed was specific in dictating its use only for police and fire department operations, and street repairs and upkeep.
Further, Cantalamessa pointed out the city guaranteed $500,000 will be used annually for the upkeep and repairs of city streets that do not receive state and federal grants or loans.
But when it comes to using grants or loans to improve city streets and sidewalks, consider this.
The city of Warren in recent months spent more than $157,700 to replace a half-dozen crosswalks made of imprinted concrete designed to resemble inlaid bricks. The work is part of the East Market Street repaving project. That expense is in addition to about $360,000 spent on the faux brick crosswalks over the last decade or so.
City officials say the replacement work was necessitated by utility cuts in those areas, with the majority of the work involving removal and replacement of cracked concrete sections, and resealing of the crosswalks in the areas of Market Street, crossing Main Avenue, Park Avenue, Pine Avenue, Elm Road and Chestnut Avenue. This sounds like a lot of cost and upkeep on the fake bricks.
Approximately 80 percent of the funding for construction was provided by Federal Highway Administration, with the Ohio Public Works Commission providing 20 percent. While there were no local funds used in the project, these funds are still public money, and we’d argue those decisions were not the best use of that public money.
We’d venture a guess that the grants providing these funds probably could have been directed at real road repairs — not aesthetics. Certainly, two painted white lines would have served the same purpose as the inlaid brick crosswalks. Motorists who travel through the city probably would have much rather seen the funds go to road repairs.
So, as city council, Mayor Doug Franklin and Warren Safety Service Director Eddie Colbert put their heads together soon to discuss funding for improved city roads, sidewalks and infrastructure, we urge them to examine the bigger, long-term picture.
Well-paved streets are critical. Pretty infrastructure is not.