By DANIEL SUDDEATH
NEW ALBANY —
Politics and paving were intertwined in a work-session discussion that led to one New Albany City Council member leaving the meeting less than 10 minutes after it began.
With the proposal of bonding $5 million in paving all but off the table, the council met Monday to deliberate how to resurface city streets using existing funds.
A few minutes into the discussion, Street Department Commissioner Mickey Thompson provided council members with a preliminary list of roads that may be paved this year due to their condition.
Councilwoman Diane McCartin-Benedetti asked if the council would receive a list of worn streets in need of resurfacing based on district, to which Coffey objected.
“We’re not going to do this by district,” Coffey said to Benedetti.
Coffey favored footing a paving campaign with a $5 million bond, however, borrowing money to finance resurfacing wasn’t a proposal that received much support from the rest of the council.
Since the council will likely spend $2 million of Economic Development Income Tax, or EDIT, funds on paving this year instead of bonding, Coffey said the streets that get resurfaced should be determined by “experts” such as Thompson.
Council members shouldn’t attempt to garner paving projects for their districts in lieu of resurfacing a street in disrepair in another area of the city, Coffey continued.
Benedetti — who represents District 5 — told Coffey another legislator can’t control what information she receives.
“I can ask for the information I want,” she said.
A few minutes later and less than 10 minutes into the work session, Benedetti collected her paperwork and left the meeting.
On her way out, she submitted a written request for a road paving breakdown by district.
In a phone interview Tuesday, she said she wasn’t attempting to steer more paving dollars to her district.
“It’s not being political, it’s so everybody understands and can see what’s going on in each district,” Benedetti said of why she wanted a paving recommendation list based on districts. “The whole point of the conversation was, if I ask for something as a legislator, I should be able to get that information.”
After Benedetti left the meeting, other council members discussed how the city should compile a list of paving needs to be submitted to Thompson.
Councilman Scott Blair said the city should prioritize paving based on needs, but that it makes sense for council members to submit streets in their own district “just because we naturally travel on those.”
The council agreed to each member providing Thompson with a list of streets that could be paved. There was discussion about how the process could seem political if it’s based only by district.
“It seems very political, and whether it’s intended to be, it appears that way,” Councilman Greg Phipps said.
Thompson added that residents will question why a certain street or alley was paved instead of the road they live along.
The streets that have been proposed so far by the administration were based off a 2008 study conducted by the city.
The roads that weren’t resurfaced during that effort were included in the current list based on condition.
The council discussed possibly updating the study, which administration officials estimated would cost up to $30,000.
Thompson and Coffey stressed that time is of the essence if several streets are to be paved this year. The council agreed to submit paving requests to Thompson and to have him present a new list based on those recommendations and the past study.
There are some projects that will likely have to be footed by a different revenue source to cover costs.
Councilman Bob Caesar said Old Vincennes Road is in need of resurfacing, but added it could cost up to $1 million due to the condition of the street.
Bono Road was also mentioned by Councilman John Gonder due to decay in a portion of the street. Due to the potential scope of the work, administration officials said repairing Bono Road is also a project that will have to be considered aside from the $2 million EDIT pledge.
The council still must vote to appropriate the $2 million in EDIT before bids can be accepted and a contractor is hired for paving. The council’s next meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.