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Plan smart – Our view: City streets too valuable to ignore

TThe amount of money being discussed is staggering. But the cost of doing nothing or cutting corners is equally as concerning. Glencoe residents can only hope their city councilors make good, sound decisions regarding city streets.
Two weeks ago, representatives of the city’s engineering firm provided the city council with a series of options regarding the maintenance of city streets in the north-central and northwestern sections of Glencoe. By 2035, the streets will be 50 or 60 years old. The municipal sewer and water lines beneath them will be significantly older.
Engineers from SEH presented councilors an informal schedule of sorts for maintaining Glencoe’s investment in city streets. In short, the proposal calls for about $33 million in spending on city streets over 15 years or so. The plan calls for the city to enact a planned schedule of maintenance projects on the streets. Some projects will include mill-and-overlay. Some streets can get by with crack sealing. Still others will need varying levels of reconstruction, depending on the condition of the infrastructure.
The city is looking ahead to the day when this plan is enacted. To Glencoe’s credit, the council has addressed the plan with its eyes wide open. Does anybody on the city council gleefully look forward to tearing up city streets? Probably not. Do councilors know they may deal with homeowners angry about assessments. They certainly do.
But any member of the city council unwilling to look ahead to the day when city streets, one of Glencoe’s most valuable investments, is doing taxpayers a huge disservice. City streets are an investment. The investment must be properly maintained to get the most out of it.
Residents need look no further than the parking lot on the north side of the junior-senior high school. The lot has not been properly maintained. Repairs have been delayed time and again because somebody didn’t want to pay the cost of proper maintenance. Portions of the lot date back decades with perhaps a Band-Aid approach to its maintenance. Now, the school district is facing spending perhaps in excess of $1 million to fix it. Had the appropriate maintenance work been done when it should have been done, the district wouldn’t have to hope it can afford a long-overdue improvement project.
As for city streets, Glencoe City Administrator Mark Larson and Finance Director Todd Trippel will look at the planned debt load and schedule of projects the city faces in the years to come to devise a plan on how and when the city can properly maintain its investment in streets and sewer and water infrastructure. After the completion of the central stormwater project, Morningside Drive project and East 11th Street projects are next up.
While it is easy to suffer sticker shock on the cost of city street projects the engineers recently presented, the cost of unnecessary delay is likely greater. We hope councilors allow their engineers and city staff to do their jobs and prepare the city for the projects needed in the years to come.
Doing nothing can be awfully expensive.
- jm