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Pothole Report Jolts Drivers Many Don’t Believe That City Has Filled All Major Potholes

Motorists bouncing down Spokane’s streets may find this hard to believe, but city officials say they’ve filled all the potholes.

At least all the bad ones.

“We’re caught up with the ones that have been identified to us,” said Jim Smith, street maintenance director.

“It depends on how you define a pothole,” said Phil Williams, director of planning and engineering services.

Some residents find the city’s response hard to believe.

“There are potholes all the way up and down Grand,” said Ron Kurtz, who lives near the intersection of Grand and 26th Avenue. “They’re not keeping them up.”

“Heavens! They’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” said a North Ash resident who asked that her name not be used. “You can hear the cars a-thumping along them.”

The city has patched 1,951 potholes since Jan. 1 - that’s 16 more than in all of 1995, Smith said. A bad winter created more potholes than past years.

The city relies on residents to report potholes, Smith said. Some small ones may pop up from time to time, but the big ones have been fixed, he said.

“I’m not saying we don’t have rough roads, but we’ve caught the ones that could cause damage to automobiles or personal harm,” he said.

Many of the streets, particularly arterials, causing the most complaints are beyond routine repair, Williams said. “‘At some point, you’re just baby-sitting the street, because the bottom line is it needs to be resurfaced.

“We’re putting patches on top of patches.”

Residents are less than two months away from voting on a $37.3 million bond issue aimed at fixing the city’s dented, cracked and bumpy streets.

The issue goes before voters Sept. 17. If passed, the bond would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $89 a year for seven years, or $7.43 a month.

A perceived failure to fix potholes is just one of several accusations aimed at the city since the push for the bond began last month.

Some residents are upset about signs the city placed along the arterials slated for repair if the bond passes.

“It’s sort of blackmail,” said Kurtz, adding that the signs, like the one along Grand’s “roller coaster,” cause people to be desperate to fix the road.

Others, like South Hill resident John Brown, think the city is delaying road repairs to force the bond’s passage.

“I think they’re deliberately not fixing a lot of these potholes because they anticipate” repaving the streets with the bond, he said.

Williams denies that.

“Oh, of course not,” he said. “We’re working every single day … trying to keep the streets up. We’re definitely not trying to avoid working on streets hoping to fix the bond issue, because then what if it doesn’t pass?”

Smith said several times he’s heard the complaint that the city is letting its streets deteriorate. “What we’re saying back is that we’ll do as much this year as last year.”

So far this year, the city has spent about 66 percent of the $1.01 million spent last year on “spot patching.” But crews are still a few days behind schedule because of a wet and rainy spring.

“You can’t pave in rain,” Smith said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Graphic: Road repair

MEMO: To report a pothole or other dangerous road condition inside the city limits, call 625-7733.

To report a pothole or other dangerous road condition inside the city limits, call 625-7733.