by Kathryn Dentato
Brooksville’s city streets are in urgent need of repair. Ponding on the roads allows the water to penetrate the surface over time and become trapped. Underlayers wash away, leaving the surface to crack and resemble alligator skin or to crumble and fall away. It is a situation the City Council recognizes and wants to fix.
ATC Group Services LLC (ATC) evaluated the status of 12 of the most damaged areas. Paul Booth, Director of Public Works, reported the results of the 31 core drillings ATC obtained on May 13 and 14, 2020.
In some locations, the asphalt was very thin (.5 inches). ATC reported no more than 3.4 inches of asphalt in any of the samples. The underlayer (base course thickness) was also far less than the current standard, ranging from 2.5 inches to 10.5 inches. The standard is for three layers: 6-8 inches of compacted lime rock as the bottom layer, a center layer of 9-12 inches of subgrade material, with 1.5-2 inches of asphalt as the final layer.
Booth said there were three repair options Council could consider: to continue patching the roads as they have been, to repair and then overlay with millings (the same way Providence Road was repaired), or to regrade and rebuild the road.
Booth recommended regrading and rebuilding the road and presented four options. The lifespan of the roads under each construction option would vary due to weather conditions and actual usage.
Option 1 – This would require hiring an independent engineering firm to create a new design, then remove and replace the existing road and its base. The initial cost estimate is just under $1 million. The new road could be expected to last up to 30 years.
Option 2 – Using Hernando County’s standard road construction plans, all 12 roads would be completely rebuilt. The cost is still high at $885,625, but each road will have a life expectancy of between 20-30 years.
Option 3 – Using Hernando County’s standard road construction plans, only 8 roads would be completely rebuilt. They would have a life expectancy of up to 30 years. The roads are North Bailey Ave, North Magnolia Ave, South Magnolia Ave, South Georgia Ave, North Georgia Ave, North Alabama Ave, Cleveland Ave, May Ave, and Museum Court.
The other four roads (North Lemon Avenue, West Fort Dade Avenue, Bell Avenue, and South Alabama Avenue) have sufficient underlying material that the mill and overlay process would repair the roads satisfactorily but may not last as long as the other eight roads. The cost estimate for this option is $693,625.
Option 4 – The least expensive option is to mill the surface of the existing road, regrade the base, and then cover it with new asphalt. No engineering design would be required, and no drainage improvements would be made. The estimated cost is almost $119,000 and the anticipated lifespan of 5-8 years reflects this.
Booth said the cost for a complete road replacement is $87.79 per square yard. By contrast, a mill and overlay costs $11.79 per square yard. Engineering cost was determined by the State of Florida’s Architects and Engineering scale of 9.5% of the project’s construction costs.
Vice Mayor Pat Brayton spoke in favor of Option 3 though it was over the $600,000 already budgeted. “We keep putting it off,” he said. “We’ve got to start somewhere.”
Other roads could be identified in the coming years and repaired under the same process, Brayton suggested. Council members Betty Erhard and Robert Battista agreed.
Councilmember Bill Kemerer agreed that this could become a sustainable program. He stated he would prefer property owner partnership to lower the City’s cost, but understood the position was not held by the other council members. City Manager Mark Kutney stated that if property owners offered to pay a portion of the cost the City could entertain it.
Concerned the roads would have to be dug up within a few years, Kemerer inquired about planned DPW projects relating to water or sewer lines, or stormwater impact. Kutney advised that stormwater drainage would likely be addressed by the County’s construction plans. Interim Utilities Director Danny Brooks stated he would review the maps to confirm upcoming projects, but the CIP did not include any water or sewer work.
Kemerer said that the estimated cost exceeded the proposed budget by almost $100,000 and could increase once the actual work begins. He recommended postponing the mill and overlay work to bring the estimate closer to the budgeted amount.
Battista suggested staggering the repairs to manage unanticipated costs. Eliminating the four roads that would use the mill and overlay process would reduce the cost by more than $240,000 and would allow for cost overruns. Any balance could then carry over to the next fiscal year.
Mayor Joe Bernardini preferred Option 4 due to future budget impacts from COVID-19. Since the total cost estimate for Option 4 is $118,000, the balance would be kept in reserve. All the roads could be repaired at the lower cost, he said, and they could completely repair them once the COVID -19 effects ended.
Kutney stated that roads could be dropped and rescheduled in order to remain in the proposed $600,000 budget for this fiscal year.
Battista agreed that repairing the roads properly for a longer life was preferable to a quick fix that would require additional spending within a few years.
Kemerer characterized it as a “tortoise and the hare” process. The best option, Kemerer said, was to contract for a smaller number of roads and remain in the budget. Additional roads could always be added.
Booth stated that DPW would begin repairs on those roads on the CIP list that have waited the longest. A 20% contingency buffer is considered when estimating projects so they can remain under or at budget, he said. The same procedure would be followed for the next fiscal year.
Responding to Bernardini’s COVID-19 concerns, Kemerer said that the City’s revenue streams are not really being affected. Bernardini stated he would not vote to raise taxes, a sentiment shared by Kemerer and Erhard.
Adding to the uncertainty is the federal response after the presidential election in November, Kemerer said. Maintaining road replacement or repair as a pre-determined budget item would ensure that the projects continue.
Brayton moved to select Option 3 as proposed by Booth. Battista seconded the motion. Bernardini reiterated his preference for Option 4. Kemerer stated that he could not support Option 3 due to the milling and overlay portion, as well as the cost.
Brayton then rescinded the motion and restated it to include a project limit of $600,000. Battista seconded the new motion. There was no other discussion. The motion passed 4-1, with Bernardini objecting.