A city councilman has sounded off about the ongoing roadwork project on North Main.
Councilman Chris Presley said the work on North Main might cost more than expected, is using an unproven method of smoothing out bumps, and contends the process left citizens out without a chance to voice their opinions.
Presley said the city has paid out more than $429,000 to Teamwork with another $550,000 remaining to be paid. In addition, Presley said a process called diamond grinding, which is supposed to smooth out bumps, was budgeted for $600,000 for a total of $1.58 million. He asked city administrators, including City Manager Rick Davis, about this, and they responded that the cost to completely reconstruct North Main would be $11 million.
Presley said he asked if the previous dollar amount correct and had the diamond grinding occurred yet. He also inquired whether council approved the $1.58 million in repair work.
Presley said Friday, city officials responded.
“I’ve heard from the city manager, and we had a productive and constructive conversation,” Presley said. “I respect him as a person and don’t question the good intentions. I appreciate any and all efforts to save and stretch taxpayer dollars. Nevertheless, in my opinion, this was somewhat of a flawed process whereby the citizens were not given an opportunity to have any input, through their elected representatives. The repairs are touted as an innovative solution that has never been done before in Baytown. That, in and of itself, is one reason it should’ve come to city council for discussion and deliberation before they commenced.”
Presley said doing the repairs through the existing concrete maintenance contract, the city is paying a per-square-foot price.
“Typically, concrete maintenance repairs are made throughout the entire city as needed,” he said. “But with this project, the contractor works in the same location every day, doesn’t have to re-mobilize to new areas, and is doing much more volume. Accordingly, we might have been able to obtain better pricing if it would’ve been bid out as a stand-alone project. What started out with a $1.58 million price tag is now up to $2.1 million, and the southbound lanes aren’t even being done. By doing it this way, we’ve just about signed a blank check.”
Presley said he was informed the diamond-grinding portion of the project is going to be bid out and brought to council for approval.
“But by doing it this way, council has been put in a sticky position where we must now approve that $600,000 expense, or else we’ll all have to live with a bumpy road for forever,” Presley said.
Presley maintains the roadwork should have been labeled a capital project.
“The bottom line is over $2 million of repair work done on one stretch of road should not be handled as if it’s standard maintenance work,” Presley said. “The sheer scope of the work caused it to become a capital project, and the citizens should have a say-so on capital projects. Whether citizens might’ve preferred to re-construct the road at a higher cost, albeit, instead of doing very expensive patches, is not even the main point. The main point is they should’ve had input on that decision.”
Presley insisted he is on good terms with the city administration and is thinking of the best interests of the citizens he was elected to represent.
“My aim isn’t to stir the pot. My only aim is to point out a few potential flaws in a process so that we can potentially improve processes going forward and citizens gain greater confidence with these sorts of undertakings in the future,” Presley said.
The project started at North Main and Highway 146 and is now at Baker Road. Once that portion is complete, work will start on the southbound part of North Main.
Public Works and Engineering Director Frank Simoneaux spoke about the timeline of the project.
“The concrete replacement should be completed in September, weather permitting,” Simoneaux said. “The diamond grinding, the second phase of the project, will begin shortly after the Phase I completion. The approximate completion date for this phase will be in December, also weather permitting.”
Councilwoman Heather Betancourth said she would prefer to see the final product before making a judgment.
“I agree it does not look good right now, nor does it ride well, but to be fair, it is under construction,” Betancourth said. “It is a three-phase project, and it is only in the first phase. (The diamond grinding) is a new technique, and the city has not ever done it before. It is supposed to save over $10 million for taxpayers. It supposed to be just as durable as if they did a complete reconstruction but in a fraction of the time.”