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Public Works An Essential Exceptional City Element
Assistant Public Works Director Jim Insco, a former city council member, acknowledged that during his tenure the “blunt” tough decisions --- be they furloughs, layoffs, or cuts --- came at the expense of public works.
“I’ll take my share of the blame,” Insco said, now stressing that the men and women of the department have established their dedication to the city.
During the snowy wet winter, the Street Department worked with four vehicles running all day long, Mayor Williams explained. Huntington has 189.6 miles of streets to maintain. “We’ve been out on snow call 40 times this winter,” Insco added, noting this is more than in the last six or seven years combined. During snow fall, workers often toiled 16 hours, went home and rested eight hours, then came back to remove snow.
Speaking of the difficulties keeping the aging vehicles on the road 24/7, Williams indicated, “We’re better than this… we have wrung every bit of water out of this rag. There’s too few people to do the work.”
Alluding to an answer for the pace of clearing hazardous roads, Williams mentioned that cities Huntington should have “four times as many snow plows.”
As an example of an item too costly for this year’s budget are six replacement dump trucks with snow and ice removal controls.
The harsh weather has --- like everywhere else in the nation --- created its share of pot holes and critical capital projects for bridges, sinkholes and paving.
“We will start paving earlier this year [as we have] extensive needs,” the Mayor told council. He indicated that “priorities” must be established as the available funds will not cover all the needs. Council members have been asked to rank deficient roadways by district.
As for slips, storm water deficiencies, and sink holes aggravated by the polar vortex, Williams said, “I’m holding my breath,” explaining , “if we don’t act, we’ll be buying more properties.”
Recent Department of Transportation (DOT) inspections have classified two city bridges dating back to the WPA as structurally deficient.
“If we don’t act, we face instruction to repair or close,” which would impact major arteries in and out of the city.
Repair of the Eighth Street Bridge in Ritter Park is but one immediate need. It has been submitted to KYOVA planning where it will be eligible for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The city has repairs needed to the eight additional bridges it owns and must maintain.
The city Motor Pool Garage has safety issues that would necessitate ramp, roof, sewer , bathroom and laundry room repairs.
During the hearing the administration revealed new efficiencies and programs designed for increased efficiencies and revenue streams. One “tool not in the box” regards vacant properties. Similar to programs already enacted in two state cities, a vacant property registry would be created and maintained.
“We plan accessing a fee to maintain and observe these buildings,” Williams said, adding many are structures to which the fire department responds.
“The property will be made productive,” the Mayor explained noting that a group of Huntington residents are attending a prestigious Harvard seminar on land and structure revitalization.