St. John no longer short-changed on road repairs

2014-06-19T00:00:00Z St. John no longer short-changed on road repairsBy Phil Wieland, (219) 662-5324

ST. JOHN | The town council has talked about doing a major road project for several years, but, when it had only $200,000 to $250,000 a year to spend, the conversation was more of a brief chat followed by a long sigh.

The talk got more serious when the Lake County Council passed the economic development income tax in 2013, the revenue of which is shared with all the towns and cities in the county.

Suddenly, the town had the primary source of funds for some long-delayed road work, Town Manager Steve Kil said.

"The most requested item the council members and I get is to repair the roads," Kil said. "This last winter was especially harsh, and all the roads took a beating. We sat down and said now we have a funding source. If we dedicate 90 percent of the income tax to the road bond and make up the rest, we can keep it off the property taxes, and we can do some of the roads."

Of the $250,000 it gets annually from the state's gasoline tax, Kil said more than half has to be spent on salt, which didn't leave much for the 101 miles of town streets.

That does not include U.S. 41 and U.S. 231, which are state highways. The EDIT funds will be combined with the town's cumulative capital development tax revenue to pay for $5.2 million in road repairs and paving.

The bond issue was approved last week by the town's Redevelopment Commission, which is paying it off through a lease arrangement with the newly formed Redevelopment Authority, formed for the sole purpose of borrowing the money. The town expects to receive about $313,000 from EDIT, of which $260,000 will go toward the bond issue. The CCD fund will contribute $171,000 of its $473,000 annually to the 15-year bond.

"We've been falling far behind on maintenance," Kil said. "This will go a long way in getting caught up. We will not get everything done we want to, but we will get 80 to 90 percent of it. We are hoping with the quantity of roads we are doing, we will get better bids so we can do even more than we've listed so far."

The 80 miles or so of remaining roads are mostly in new or newer subdivisions that don't need paving work yet. The list of roads to be done cover mostly the older section of town.

The work includes a full-depth reclamation of Joliet Street from Clarmonte Drive to Cline Avenue and Patterson Street from West 93rd Avenue to West 85th Avenue. Hart Street will be rebuilt from Joliet to Thielen Street.

The list of the other streets to be done is on the town's website. Each will have two inches of old pavement milled off and replaced.

Kil said the town expects to advertise for bids July 14, open the bids July 31 and award the contract Aug. 14. All the work is expected to be done by the end of October.

The conversation about the worst road in town, U.S. 41, will continue, but, so far, it's a one-sided conversation.

"We've contacted (INDOT) numerous times, and they are like the rest of us with limited budgets so they are prioritizing projects. We have one area on U.S. 41 just north of 93rd in front of the Aspen Cafe that is a monthly issue for the state. We hear about from everybody, and we see it."

INDOT Spokesman Matt Deitchley said the state plans to resurface U.S. 41 next year and will be doing only patching and preventive maintenance on the road this year.

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