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 Author: lisajimenez13
PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 12:06 pm 
One of the most important and highly visible, yet least understood functions of local government is road construction and maintenance projects. The Town of Silver City’s website even offers a link for reporting potholes, yet most residents have little understanding of how road improvements happen (or don’t).

Road improvements are funded primarily by federal taxpayer dollars passed to state government, then down to the local level through a mix of highly competitive state and federal grant programs. Ideally funds are also appropriated by the state legislature, though the current state budget crisis has left no funds for local projects.

Both federal and state funds for road projects have decreased significantly in recent years, explained Alex Brown, Silver City town manager and finance director. The Cooperative Agreement Project Fund, for instance, which used to provide some $200,000 to Silver City for annual road improvements and maintenance, is now just $60,000. And there’s no end in sight to continued funding challenges.

“We have 76 miles of town roads and we’re just trying to maintain them to be as safe as possible, even as funding is harder and harder to come by,” said Brown. Moreover, he and Public Works Director Peter Peña must try and match local road and infrastructure priorities to these various funding sources, each of which has very specific criteria.

“It’s like trying to put together a puzzle every year,” Brown said. “We may not be able to fund those projects that are local priorities because they don’t meet the exact funding criteria, so we have to find those projects that best fit the funding available to us.”



Grant funds are critical because the town budget just isn’t large enough to pay for road improvements and manage day-to-day operations. Even the annual chip and fog seal projects which extend the life of town roads and streets depend upon grant funding, said Peña. This year, for example, about half of the $110,000 expenditure for this local road maintenance program was funded by a federal pass-through to the state.

So how do road maintenance and improvement projects get on the priority list? Projects are often recommended by street division staff – primarily Peña - whose job it is to know town streets, their overall condition and maintenance needs over time. Recommendations are included in the town’s Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, (ICIP), the most recent version of which spans fiscal years 2019 through 2023, and serves as a guide for long-term infrastructure improvement and maintenance planning. The current ICIP was approved by the Town Council on August 22nd.

As projects make it to the top of the priority list, they are developed over time in phases. Once the funding source is determined, engineers develop the scope of work, estimate the cost, then Peña applies for grant funding. If funds are awarded, project design begins and the town advertises for construction bids through the public procurement process, as required by law.

“We apply for all kinds of grant funds every year, then hope we are funded so that we can make needed infrastructure improvements to keep our roads and other infrastructure in good working condition,” said Peña. “It’s more and more challenging every year.”

###
Lisa Jimenez
575 574-5473
lmjimenez13@gmail.com


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Silver City & Southwestern New Mexico Monthly Community Calendar

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Community Events
Week of October 18, 2018

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18
SIRO A (Live "TECHNO CIRCUS")
19
Women Embracing Recovery: We-R Group
Gila Native Plant Society Meeting
Dances of Universal Peace
20
Honeybee Presentation
Permaculture Silver City
21
22
New Hope Al-Anon Family Group
23
24
Have fun - Play Gin Rummy
Wednesday Evening Al-Anon Family Group










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