Chronic street maintenance issues plague Granite Shoals
Just one mile of the 90 miles of streets in the city of Granite Shoals will consume about 89 percent of the 2022-23 streets maintenance budget, a fact that highlights the chronic problems faced when upgrading residential roadways in the lakeside community. Kings Circle Drive currently ranks highest on a list of streets slated for upgrades because of its high traffic, poor condition, and use as a school bus route.
“When they start jarring the teeth of the kids on the school bus, it’s time to fix it,” Interim City Manager Peggy Smith said.
The city uses a 1-10 ranking system to determine which roads need the most attention. The result is that higher-ranked streets end up consuming most of the city’s annual budget before streets with fewer homes and lower traffic can see any improvements.
Granite Shoals’ street maintenance budget for 2022-23 is $345,000, which is derived from 1 percent of the city’s sale’s tax revenue and a $115,000 transfer from the general fund. Kings Circle Drive alone will cost an estimated $308,407 to repair and repave.
Lifespan is another problem. Asphalt streets have an estimated lifespan of 8-10 years, while seal-coated streets last 3-5 years before repaving or major repairs are required, Smith said. Newly fixed roads begin to deteriorate before all the other roads can be brought up to standards — a never-ending cycle that keeps the city’s streets in disrepair.
“It’s a very complex situation running this city with the limited resources that we have,” Smith told DailyTrib.com. “You’ve got to be a good steward of the community’s funds.”
While Granite Shoals places a high priority on street repairs, that has be be balanced with basic civic needs like police, fire protection, and water utilities. Without commercial and residential growth, setting higher taxes, or cutting funding from other departments, the city has a limited resources for its street budget
The street work that the city can afford is routinely hindered by a lack of staff. The Granite Shoals Streets and Parks Department is responsible for maintaining 90 miles of roads and 19 city parks, and it currently has five out of nine employee positions filled. The understaffing is attributed to low pay and costly health benefits.
“Street work is very important,” Councilor Samantha Ortis said when asked about the subject. “I think the fact that (the streets department) is so shorthanded is why things don’t get accomplished as quickly as they could be.”
Street work has been a consistent point of concern for the council, but it has been interrupted by changes in leadership within the city, she continued.
Mayor Pro-Tem Ron Munos agreed.
“It’s been a struggle ever since I’ve been on council,” Munos said. “It’s a real shame, but you can’t get blood out of a stone.”
Both Munos and Smith emphasized the lack of economic development as a limiting factor to the city’s revenue.
“I don’t speak for the city, nor for the council, but we have a hard time getting commercial development without wastewater treatment,” Munos said. “It’s a conundrum.”
Currently, the city does not have a wastewater treatment plant.
The streets aren’t just hard on school buses, they’re also hard on the city’s emergency service vehicles. Police Chief John Ortis told DailyTrib.com that his patrol vehicles and the fire department vehicles are battered by the busted streets, increasing maintenance costs and reducing vehicle lifespans.
Mayor Aaron Garcia shares the sentiments of his fellow councilors and city staff and told DailyTrib.com that other avenues have to be found. At the last City Council meeting of 2022, he formed a committee dedicated to finding better health insurance for city employees.
“We’ve got to look into pursuing grants for road improvement or sales tax or other avenues,” he said. “There’s so much on your plate, but you just have to chip away a little at a time.”
Work on Kings Circle Drive is expected to begin in April 2023 after the weather warms up enough to allow for laying asphalt.