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Charleston doubles paving budget to more than $1 million

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The city of Charleston will spend nearly double the amount as last year on street paving, with the city's user fee paying for the entire project. 

Council members approved a $1.1 million paving contract with West Virginia Paving Monday night. Last year, the city spent about $660,000, said Greg Hayson, city paving inspector.

Portions of 37 streets in 12 of the city's 21 wards will be resurfaced over the next couple of weeks, according to the paving list.

Sections of two alleys in a Kanawha City ward will be milled and repaved to deal with drainage issues.

"We're planning on paving nearly 10 miles of streets," Hayson said.

The city's user free is covering the entire cost of paving this year, City Manger David Molgaard said. The user fee brings in about $5.4 million a year.

It also pays for police service, Molgaard said. Without it, the city would struggle to pay for street paving, he said.

"It's essential to maintaining our infrastructure," he said.

About $1.6 million generated by the user fee has been placed in a maintenance line item in the budget to cover the cost of street paving and bridge and retaining wall repairs, Molgaard said.

Streets are selected on an as-needed basis. Workers in the city engineer's office look at streets and determine which ones are in need of repair, Hayson said. Engineers then evaluate the streets to determine which should be placed on the list for paving season, Hayson said.

Council members also can request that streets be paved, as can regular citizens, he said. Engineers will evaluate these requests before adding them to the list.

Engineers try to pick streets in all areas of the city rather than paving several in one ward or community.

"It's only fair," Hayson said.

This may not have always been the case, Councilman Bobby Reishman said.

Reishman, a Republican representing a ward in the Kanawha City and Loudon Heights area, said many years ago streets were picked depending on whose house they were close to or what councilman represented that ward.

That's no longer the case, he said.

"It used to be that the only times streets were paved was when we had elections," he said. "But that's not how it's done now."

Reishman, who has served about 13 years on council, is chairman of the Finance Committee. He does not have any streets on this summer's paving list.

Another prominent councilman, Edward Talkington, also does not have any streets on the list.

Talkington is a Democrat who represents a ward on the city's West Side. He has served on council since 1999. He also sits on the Finance Committee and is chairman of the Environmental and Recycling Committee.

Talkington said he had no problem with the fact that no streets in his ward will be paved this year.

"I may not have any on the list this time, but I could have next year," he said.

The streets in Talkington's West Side ward are not in dire need of repair. A large section of his ward is flat and little salt is used to melt ice in the winter, Talkington said.

Talkington believes just about every street in his ward has been paved since the user fee was initiated in 2003.

"You can't expect to have paving spread out through all 21 wards every year," he said.

Before the user fee was initiated, some streets went as long as 30 years without being paved.

"I had a street in my ward that wasn't paved in 30 to 35 years," Talkington said. "It was a concrete street, and those last a lot longer, but that's way too long."

Over half a mile, 3,310 feet, of Virginia Street East in the downtown area from the Elk River to McFarland Street will be repaved this summer, according to the list.

The street likely will be paved at the end of the season, Hayson said. The paving will be done at night to keep from disrupting traffic as much as possible, he said.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon.

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