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Sunday, December 8, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

East Francis Avenue will get ‘skin patches’ before rebuilding

Robert Werner scoops up excess material on Wednesday as city crews pave a section damaged by a water line break at North Foothills Drive and Perry Street. (Dan Pelle)
Robert Werner scoops up excess material on Wednesday as city crews pave a section damaged by a water line break at North Foothills Drive and Perry Street. (Dan Pelle)

Next year, Francis Avenue east of Division will be completely rebuilt.

But street officials have determined that deterioration of Francis requires at least a partial fix immediately, so thin layers of pavement will be laid down on the avenue this summer in hopes of keeping the path intact another year.

The decision to use “skin patches” on Francis between Division and Market streets probably is the biggest shift the city made this year as it finalized its summer paving projects.

“This is what you’d call the ultimate Band-Aid,” said Street Director Mark Serbousek.

The city has identified six grind and overlay projects, three overlay projects and 22 crack sealing projects to complete in 2011.

“Now that we’ve got hot weather, we’ll be going great guns, hopefully,” Serbousek said last week.

City crews are responsible for grind, overlay and crack sealing – projects that smooth streets and make them last longer.

In grind and overlay projects, crews remove about the top two inches of pavement before installing a new layer. On streets without curbs, crews often simply place pavement over the existing surface.

Projects covered by the voter-approved 2004 street bond, which pays to completely rebuild streets from curb-to-curb, are contracted out to private companies.

This year’s maintenance projects weren’t affected by the City Council’s decision in February to approve a $20-per-vehicle tab tax. That money won’t be collected until September and likely won’t be spent until next year, officials said.

The city has 113 street maintenance workers, down about seven from last year because of budget cuts.

Serbousek said the city has tried to focus cuts on nonpaving projects, such as street sweeping.

Mayor Mary Verner’s preliminary 2012 budget proposal calls for freezing next year’s street budget at this year’s level, not including the tab fee money. The tab fee money will be earmarked for specific projects recommended by a citizens committee.

Some other city departments’ budgets, including police and fire, would be increased under the preliminary budget plan to make up for higher labor and other costs.

Councilwoman Amber Waldref, a supporter of the tab fee, said the street department should get the same increases as other departments so that the new tab fee isn’t eroded on activities that may have been performed anyway.

“I personally am going to work as hard as I can to have the street department get the increase for expenses,” Waldref said.

Chief Financial Officer Gavin Cooley said the city in the past few years has moved several million dollars of other tax revenues into the street department to make up for shortfalls in real estate taxes because streets are a priority.

“Streets is being asked to do more with the same amount,” he said.

Current plans also wouldn’t provide the street department with extra funding related to the annexation of the West Plains, which is set for Jan. 1.

Street crews got off to a late start on paving because of the cool, wet spring, Serbousek said. He added that depending on a street’s condition, a grind and overlay project should last about a decade or more.

“We’re just fighting the battle,” Serbousek said. “We have to fix them enough to make them passable.”

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