Road upgrade cooperation proposed

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November 11, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Humboldt Administrator Cole Herder asked Allen County Commissioners if they would share in the purchase of equipment necessary to repair roads.
County commissioners were noncommittal Tuesday morning, but listened with interest.
Herder said Humboldt is hard-pressed to make needed repairs to its long-neglected streets. It’s been eight years or more since Humboldt has done any major repairs. Now, a complete overhaul from the base up is needed.
To do that, Herder proposed purchasing a $100,000 machine.
The Asphalt  Zipper chews up asphalt and chip-and-seal streets. As it proceeds down a stretch of road the machine leaves behind a mass of aggregate that then may be graded and compacted to prepare for chip-and-seal resurfacing.
If Humboldt acquires a  Zipper, it would be needed a month or two each year, leaving ample time for use by county crews, perhaps other nearby cities, Herder said.
The county has a similar machine, but much larger than the  Zipper. It has been used in Humboldt but its size makes it difficult to negotiate streets and corners, as well as manholes, Herder told the Register. For it to run along Humboldt streets, tree limbs would have to be trimmed back to 15 feet above the pavement.
“We also could use the  Zipper in trenching for utilities,” he said, giving advantage with clean cuts in streets rather than jagged ones from a backhoe.
Mitch Garner, director of Public Works, doesn’t foresee anytime soon when the smaller  Zipper would be needed for repairs to hard-surfaced county roads, but said that might occur if a small area, a few feet on a side, were to develop need near to Humboldt.
While Herder hopes to have Humboldt’s streets upgraded over the next 10 years, it presents a significant challenge to the city’s finances. Herder estimated asphalt overlay of Humboldt’s 25 miles of streets would cost $10 million. A complete rebuilt would cost at least 2 1/2 times that, he said.
And installing curbs and gutters, a feature of most streets in Iola, is beyond reality because of cost and the way streets and drainage already are laid out.
Humboldt receives about $50,000 a year from state reimbursements for street work and has $40,000 on hand. That’s enough to purchase a  Zipper over five years at $22,000 a year.

FOR REASONS cloaked in history — albeit it a short time — Humboldt hasn’t taken advantage of county chip and seal programs since 2007. Other towns, including Gas, LaHarpe and Moran, have, and “after looking at all of them, they all have better streets than we do,” Herder admitted.
A half-cent sales tax that would have generated $90,000 a year for street repairs was handily defeated in 2012. “We also have high debt (of $2.6 million) and have let the streets go,” Herder said. The debt stems from sewer, water, City Hall and swimming pool improvements.
Whether Herder’s proposal flies won’t be known until later. In large measure he developed the idea during about 50 hours of study and research for a project on street repairs for Humboldt while he was immersed in a several months’ course on management techniques — “which has made me a better administrator.”
Herder also told commissioners Humboldt soon would reinstall a Neighborhood Revitalization Program to give homeowners property tax advantages for remodeling or adding to an existing structure or building anew. Plans are to put all of Humboldt into the program.
Once in place, other taxing units, such as the county, Allen Community College and USD 258, would have the option of signing on for individual requests.
Humboldt had the program for six years, ending in 2014. Its renewal slipped notice until a resident asked about it, Herder said.

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