Bryson City’s paving priorities get questioned
With so many roads needing to be repaved in Bryson City and so little money to do it with, the town board of aldermen has to make tough decisions and try to prioritize a short list of projects each year.
However, residents at a recent town board meeting questioned those paving priorities after Leatherwood Street was recently resurfaced. Leatherwood Street doesn’t get a lot of traffic compared to other streets, residents said, and it contains only about six homes — one of which belongs to Mayor Tom Sutton.
Leatherwood Street is less that a tenth of a mile long before it turns into Clingman Avenue. Clingman also has its fair share of potholes, but the paving didn’t continue onto that street or Clifton Avenue — a side street that contains a mobile home park. According to Town Manager Larry Callicutt, the project cost about $16,000.
“I don’t know why people are upset about it,” Callicutt said, adding that the street was on the priority list for paving.
Alderman Rick Bryson said Leatherwood was definitely in need but wasn’t on his priority list. He said Callicutt told the board in the winter that the town had money available for road repair in the spring and the board submitted lists of streets they felt needed repaving the most.
Bryson proceeded to survey every road in town and rated each street in bad shape before compiling a list of the worst six streets. Others on the board also gave input on which streets should be repaired, but Bryson said most of them agreed with his list of priorities.
Bryson City resident Barbara Robinson began taking pictures of the many potholes and broken pavement around town and posted them on Facebook, which led to several complaints about Sutton’s road getting paved instead of others.
Sutton said he had seen the photos being posted on Facebook of potholes throughout town and photos of his road that was recently paved. While some residents commented that Leatherwood should not have been a top priority, Sutton said he disagreed. He said the road hadn’t been paved since he was in high school.
“I didn’t order it to be done, but as a citizen I was happy to see it done,” Sutton said. “Are my neighbors not supposed to get services just because I’m in office?”
Callicutt said the town received about $48,000 last year in Powell Bill funds from the state, which is earmarked for town road repairs. The town also budgeted about $20,000 in the 2014-15 budget for paving, but Sutton said that money doesn’t go very far.
“It costs a lot of money and many of the roads have drainage issues,” he said. “We’re not just laying blacktop — we try to get the curb and gutter issues taken care of when we do the repaving.”
That was also the case for Leatherwood Street. Riprap — loose stone — was placed in the ditch where the culvert runs to help improve drainage.
So far, the town has resurfaced Leatherwood ($16,000), Carson Street ($17,000) and Almond Street ($18,000). Callicutt said Bryson Avenue and Bryson Street are next on the priority list but will be a much higher cost because the road will have to be torn up in order to replace water and sewer lines before the road is repaved. Powell Bill money can’t be used for water and sewer infrastructure, so the town has to pay those costs.
“If you’re going to fix them right, you have to fix utilities underneath it first,” he said.
Sutton said it was important for people to realize the town only has so much money and can only do paving projects during the warm months. Even in the colder months, the town tries to patch potholes as a temporary fix.
“We patch them all the time, but they don’t hold that way,” he said. “My street was patched 15 times in 10 years.”
In the days that followed a July 7 meeting where several residents complained about the potholes in town and the mayor’s street being paved, Robinson said many of the potholes in town started getting filled, including the ones in front of Yummi Yummi on Rector Street and ones on Bryson City Avenue.
Residents have also complained about the multiple potholes in the Swain County Administrative Building, but that is the county’s responsibility just as other parking lots are the responsibility of the private owners.
As for other top road priorities, Park Street was resurfaced, which was on the top of Bryson’s list. Franklin Street is another one in desperate need of repair. West Skyview Drive is also on the priority list.