July 9, 2018 11:18:50 AM
The city of Starkville has completed the first phase of road work for a $7.5 million capital improvement project.
City Engineer Edward Kemp updated aldermen on the project's progress at Tuesday's board of aldermen meeting. Aldermen approved a contract for the first phase of work, which included about 5.3 miles of paving, on May 5. Kemp said the contractor, Falcon Contracting Company, Inc., was already set up in town for another project and was able to begin work paving within three weeks.
Kemp said the work is done, as of the first week of June, well ahead of the contract's Aug. 4 end date.
Kemp, speaking to the Dispatch, said while road work can vary from year to year, this year's project is one of the largest the city has undertaken in some time.
"We did almost a million dollars' worth of work this year," he said. "We've not had that much work in several years. It was a pretty substantial project for us."
During his presentation, Kemp showed aldermen pictures of the completed road work. That included work on Santa Anita Drive, which he said was "literally crumbling" before being paved. The project also included repairs to Lynn Lane, Louisville Street and Montgomery Street, the last of which was torn up after a water line break broke through the street in February and forced utilities and street department crews to tear a hole in the road to repair it.
Kemp also showed work on Long Street, near J.L. King Park. He said work was completed with input from Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn and called it the most transformative work of the first phase.
"Beforehand there was no striping at all," Kemp said. "That kind of led to higher speeds. It was almost a speed track, as Alderman Vaughn and I talked about a lot. What we did is we installed bike lanes on either side, as well as diagonal parking on the park side and we were able to create or add about 50 parking spaces."
With the first phase completed, Starkville is turning its attention toward the second phase. Work for that will likely begin sometime next year. The phase is projected to include 4.5 miles of work at an estimated cost of just over $1 million.
'Taking pride in the community'
With the quick completion for this year's work, there was some discussion of potentially increasing the amount set for next year. Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, in an interview with the Dispatch, said the city has the money available to do more since the project is funded by bonds. However, she said it depends more on the mechanics of getting the work done.
"This year, everything seemed to break in our favor in terms of having a contractor available, prices being good and the weather cooperating," Sistrunk said. "Those may not hold next year. If they do, we can do more."
She also noted that it may depend on what other projects the city is working on that may impact streets. Starkville is preparing to begin a major water and sewer infrastructure project, and Kemp said his department will likely try to coordinate with the utilities department to avoid tearing up roads that were just repaved.
Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller said he liked the progress being made. He said it helps not only for the sake of having good infrastructure, but to improve the perception of the city.
"The second you hit some of those streets, and looking at some of those pictures, it immediately looks cleaner, the city of Starkville does," Miller said. "Just from an aesthetics point of view, it looks like we take pride in our community, which we do and we know we do. But when people come and visit here, it provides what we talk a lot about in creating a sense of place. When people come to Starkville, we want them to know they're in Starkville, Mississippi, because we have nice roads and good infrastructure."
Kemp said people like good roads. He used the example of his young son, who said he liked the "soft roads" when they went out riding on evenings to check the progress of the repaving.
"It really doesn't matter if you're 6 years old or 96 years old -- people like new overlays," Kemp said. "They like the way they ride. It's a great thing."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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