The Times West Virginian

August 22, 2013

Fairmont gets positive results from ‘perpetual’ paving program

Times West Virginian

— At the end of 2012, 116 streets covering nearly 16 miles had been paved in Fairmont thanks to funding from the city’s implementation of a street-maintenance fee.

At that point, the $2 weekly fee — charged to people who reside in Fairmont as well as nonresidents who work within city limits — on top of the city’s annual $200,000 contribution to the paving fund had allowed $1.6 million to be pumped into the project in the year since the fee had been approved.

With another fall paving cycle beginning this week in the Friendly City, an estimated $850,000 will be used to pave as many as 60 streets in the coming months. It will be the largest paving cycle since the implementation of the street-maintenance fee.

It’s all part of a plan that is enabling the paving of city streets that have been deteriorating rapidly over the past decade. An added bonus? It’s making Fairmont an attractive place to live and putting the city in position for future growth and development.

As City Manager Jay Rogers said, the paving project should be continu­ously in the works throughout Fairmont.

“My hope is that it would be perpetual,” Rogers said. “Right now we’re on about a 13-year schedule, meaning it would take us 13 years to pave every street. The life of asphalt is about the same, so when we’re finishing we should be starting from scratch all over again to keep it going and not let them fall into that condition again.”

Of course, the road to a successful paving program wasn’t an easy one.

In May 2011, Fairmont City Council approved the $2 weekly fee for those who work within the city limits as well as a $2 weekly fee for those who live within the city.

That wasn’t council’s first choice though. There were three separate ballot options to provide funding to pave Fairmont’s streets. Each of the levies received more than 50 percent of the vote but fell short of reaching the 60 percent supermajority needed to pass.

But something had to be done. The city’s streets were falling into an almost embarrassing state of disrepair. And with 110 miles of streets winding their way through Fairmont, it was a problem that was in desperate need of attention.

When it was first approved, the decision to add the $2 weekly fee wasn’t widely popular, and we acknowledged that the cost is not insignificant for many who live and work in Fairmont.

But as we said then, the price of pothole-filled streets — to those who drive on them and to the city’s image — simply could not be ignored. In the months since the weekly street-maintenance fee was approved, four paving cycles have been completed and many of the city’s streets have benefited from the project. This fall will mark the fifth cycle.

And residents appreciate the results. Last year, Rogers said that as progress continues to be made, residents gain more confidence in the project.

“Some of the fear or reservations that people had was that the city wouldn’t use the funds for what we said we were going to use the funds for, but clearly we have,” Rogers said at the time. “The calls have gone from ‘Is my street ever going to get paved?’ to ‘When is my street going to get paved?’ because they’re seeing results.”

We applauded the city’s efforts when the paving project began, and we continue to support the progress being made as more streets are paved. City leaders are putting the funds to work, and Fairmont — and the people who live and work here — will benefit.