Lincoln aldermen discuss purchase of software for streets repair

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[January 20, 2017]  LINCOLN - This week the Monday evening voting session of the Lincoln City Council was held on Tuesday due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. One action item on the agenda had been tabled for two weeks, so aldermen could have an opportunity to research the topic and look into other options.

The motion was to approve an expenditure to Farnsworth Group totaling no more than $43,918 for the development of a street maintenance plan using the PAVER software program.

PAVER – Pavement Management Assessment and Modeling System – is a computer program designed with input from several universities around the country including the University of Illinois. It is used nationwide by many municipalities. Farnsworth Group owns the software and had proposed that the firm provide the manpower for the initial assessments of city streets, input the data into the program and create a plan for the city of Lincoln Street Department to use as a guide to annual road maintenance projects.

At the January 10th Committee of the Whole meeting of the council, Gary Davis and Joe Adams of Farnsworth had explained the process for the data collection and utilization.

The software uses a universal grading scale for city streets. The grading is accomplished by collecting physical date including a complete street inventory, and a physical evaluation of each street within the city. The system takes into account several factors including the type of surface and the general condition of the road at the time of the inventory.

The men talked about how the city is currently investing its dollars in fixing broken down streets, and perhaps not lending as much attention to the streets that are in fair to good condition. The point was that those fair to good condition roads need to have attention so that they do not deteriorate to the point of needing major repair or resurfacing.

Davis explained that the grading system included a scale that would give the city an at-a-glance review of the road conditions. The scale then could be used as the deciding factor on what roads need attention.

Davis explained that streets with a score in the range of 60 to 80 would be streets in moderate to good condition, and that would be the goal score for all streets. Streets that scored lower than 60 or on the low end of the scale would be the ones that need attention in the immediate future.

It was also explained that the lower the score, the more costly it would be to bring a street back up to par. The suggestion was that streets that score well not be ignored, but rather maintained, so that dollars needed for repairs would be less.

It was also explained that in addition to providing this score the program could be incorporated into the countywide GIS program, making it easier for city officials to have a visual of the streets.

Adams explained that to collect the data, streets would be “cut into segments” and each segment would be evaluated by Farnsworth staff. The mapping of the streets would be a “one and done” time event. Physical assessment of the streets would need to be done every three years or so.

The third and final step would be to compile and deliver the data analysis to the city. This analysis would then be used as the guide to planning and budgeting street maintenance and repair projects each year.

During the discussion of the topic, Michelle Bauer asked if PAVER was the only program available that does this type of assessment. The men said there is another program called PACER that has worked well for some smaller municipalities.

Todd Mourning asked if there would be ongoing fees for the use of the software. Farnworth owns the software and said there would be no annual fee. However, if the city wishes to purchase the software and manage it, then there would be annual fees.

This week when the item came up on the agenda, Rick Hoefle asked that the vote be tabled for one month. He said the city needed time to look at the program and also to research what other options were available.

Jeff Hoinacki said that delaying the vote would complicate the budgeting process, and would put the city behind in establishing this year’s street projects plan.

City Administrator Clay Johnson said it would put the city behind for sure.

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Hoefle then asked why Farnsworth had waited until now to bring the proposal. He said the aldermen should have heard about this and had time to research it, and could have if Farnworth would have come to them earlier.

Hoefle went on to say that he wondered if this was work that city street department staff could do instead of paying Farnsworth.

Street Superintendent Walt Landers said staff could do the physical evaluations and other tasks, but would need to be trained.

Earlier in the evening Wanda Lee Rohlfs had also questioned if this were a project that city staff could perform. She noted that she felt it would be better to pay local people to do the work over an out of town firm.

Joe Adams was in the gallery. Mayor Marty Neitzel asked him to come to the speaker's table to address some of the questions from the aldermen.

Adams said that Farnsworth could indeed train staff to manage the PAVER program. He said that was not his area of expertise, so he couldn’t say how much that training would cost.

Hoefle said online research he had done indicated that the software would cost about $1,000 and training would run in the vicinity of $2,000 to $2,500.

Adams said that sounded reasonable, but again he could not commit Farnsworth to that amount.

Hoinacki said he felt that Farnsworth had presented the best program to the city. He noted that it was widely used throughout the country and had been developed with university input, including the University of Illinois.

Hoefle offered a compromise to his original motion to delay one month. He asked if the city could have two weeks to look into this further. Would that amount of time put the city way behind in its planning?

Adams said that he could work it out, spending more hours on the project to still get it done on time.

Tracy Welch had seconded Hoefle’s motion to table. He said that he wanted the city to find solutions to projects that gave them greater involvement in the process. He said he would rescind his second so that Hoefle could amend his motion.

Hoefle rescinded the original motion and placed a new motion to table the vote for two weeks. The motion passed with a vote of 5-1. Jeff Hoinacki voted “no.” Hoefle, Kathy Horn, Mourning, Steve Parrott, and Welch all voted “yes.” Michelle Bauer and Jonie Tibbs were absent for the evening.

January is a five Monday month, which means there will be no city council meeting the week of January 30th. The two-week mark will actually extend to the first voting session in February, which will be Monday, February 6th.

[Nila Smith]

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