The grass is always greener — in the middle of the street.
When Dona Dodd read in Wednesday’s Bulletin about Manteca City Councilwoman Debby Moorhead telling how the cracks on Tappan Place were so wide she could put her foot in them, she issued a challenge to check out the street she lives on — Sprague Street.
“If you want to see streets with huge cracks and grass growing in them drive down Sprague,” Dodd wrote in an e-mail. “Several streets in this area are as bad or as worse as the ones you mentioned in your article. The streets in this neighborhood were (slurry sealed) several years ago with cracks appearing not long after being resurfaced. It won’t be long before these cracks are large enough to grow crops in.”
I can’t dispute the crack about crops. There are more than three dozen cracks that run completely across the street along the four blocks of Sprague that are fairly lush with grass. That doesn’t include cracks that don’t run from curb to curb or long strips of grass in the asphalt that are parallel to the curbs.
It definitely tops the grass-choked cracks on California Avenue where I live. I wait each year until the rain stops and then I take Round-Up and spray the grass and weeds after pulling as much as I can.
But to be honest the “Manteca canyons” on Tappan Place are worse. Not only are the streets newer — they are less than 20 years old — but the cracks are definitely wider and deeper. My middle finger barely bridged at least two Tappan Place cracks I checked out while the finger next to my thumb went from the edge of the crack to the bottom for a good three inches in depth.
Mayor Steve DeBrum noted that people around town are convinced their streets are the worst in Manteca compared to other streets.
DeBrum promises that streets will get a good hard look as the council works with staff to fashion a spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1.
“We need to look at a lot of big issues — street maintenance, funding six firefighters, and pension funding to name a few,” the mayor said.
Shrinking gas taxes are reducing money for road maintenance throughout California.
The experts say Manteca needs to spend a minimum of $5.5 million a year to avoid 220 plus linear miles of streets deteriorating to the point streets will need substantially more money to rebuild them.
The city only has about $1.5 million a year to spend on street maintenance.
It is why the city this summer may not be able to do both the $1.9 million slurry seal project to protect 33 lanes miles from further deterioration in northwest Manteca as well as spend $2.3 million to completely rebuild the streets in Springtime Estates that managed to be put in place in the late 1980s minus the base without using money for future budget years.
Of course, that would likely mean no street work of any consequence would be done in 2018 to 2019 because the city would have no money.
DeBrum said he believes the city needs to revisit its street maintenance strategy to make sure it is the most effective with limited resources and work to push for more funding.
“It’s not just a Manteca problem,” DeBrum said. “Every city (at the San Joaquin Council of Governments) meeting are talking about how they have the same problems.”
The mayor noted during the 2016 council elections the condition of city streets were right up there with concerns expressed for increased public safety.
Councilman Gary Singh believes one way to make things somewhat better is to have street crews concentrate on piecemeal patches to streets that are in the worst condition to make them more tolerable and to reduce any public safety risks.
Manteca, though, has half the number of street maintenance workers (eight) that there were 10 years ago despite more street miles and traffic being added.
The council hates going to bid for jobs they can do in house but that has been the case with cement work involving curbs, gutters, and sidewalks for the past 10 years because the streets division has been slashed to the bone. The result has been more expensive contract work that means less sidewalk maintenance which means an even bigger backlog.
Manteca can get started on the right path fairly easily. In the upcoming budget the council could instruct staff to do three things:
uEliminate the Assigned Economic Revitalization (AER) fund.
uDivert what money hasn’t been earmarked and the receipts from this year to fund a major street rehabilitation project. This could provide in the neighborhood of $3 million.
uDirect the future $750,000 a year in tax receipts to go to the street division with the proviso at least two positions be added and the rest to go toward street maintenance.
It’s a small start. But to do nothing just makes the ultimate price tag much more costly.
The AER is an account the city staff recommended creating — and a previous council concurred — to use property taxes collected from homeowners for day-to-day city services that has been diverted from the now defunct redevelopment agency.
This is money homeowners are paying as property taxes every year who reside in redevelopment agency areas that no longer exist to fund economic stimulus, fight blight, or provide low income housing. The $750,000 annual amount is the city’s share of the tax spread across all taxing agencies in Manteca after the RDA bond payments are met.
Top tier city staff came up with the brilliant suggestion to not combine the money with other general property taxes because — and I’m not making this up — the city got along fine without it for years.
It is clear Manteca did not get along well with all of the money not going to the general fund for years unless you call deteriorating streets getting along fine.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com