Navigating Greensburg's pitted streets has been a daily ordeal for residents since the conclusion of the post-tornado cleanup two years ago.  That's about to change as Heft and Sons prepare to undertake a $6.4 million repair of the city's 30-some miles of pavement.

   While the continuing emergence of new buildings and housing in Greensburg is a daily encouragement for those who regularly drive the city’s streets, the streets themselves have been a just-as-daily reminder that a great deal in town remains in need of repair.  The potholes, missing curbs and outright craters, however, are about to be addressed, and to a degree greater than previously imagined possible.
   City Council eagerly accepted a base bid from local contractor Heft and Sons of $3,689,127 at its July 20 meeting to undertake rehabilitation of the town’s more than 30 miles of paved streets—a bid considerably lower than Heft’s two competitors and city leaders’ expectations.
   By comparison Apac’s base bid was $4,615,160, while that of McCormick Excavation was even higher at $5,190,388.
   By the time engineering costs and contingency fees are figured in the total price tag from Heft is right at $4,666,727.  Because of the lower-than-expected figure the overlay of certain portions of city streets has been bumped from a thickness of two to three inches, while the percentage of streets to be overlaid rather than just chipped and sealed has risen as well.
   City Administrator Steve Hewitt told The Signal that before the Heft bid came in at the unexpectedly lower level he was thinking that “maybe a third” of Greensburg’s streets would actually be rebuilt with a new base and overlay.  He says that expectation has now grown to “maybe half the streets being redone with an overlay.”  Those streets not being overlaid would still be leveled and sealed with oil and chat.
   In addition to more blocks receiving a total makeover Hewitt said that around 25,000 linear feet, or nearly five miles of new curb and gutter would now be poured, rather than the 15,000 previously projected.  The good news of Heft’s bid also means that street areas previously forecasted to receive minimal work, such as South Main from the end of the streetscape to just past the new school, will be curbed and guttered as well as resurfaced.  That reality, Hewitt admits, eases the sting of that portion of street rehabilitation having been rejected last winter as a proposed shovel-ready project in the Obama Administration’s $787 billion stimulus package.
   “The bottom line is now we can upgrade more streets and do a lot more curb and guttering,” Hewitt said. “We’re going to be able to beef up more alleys and do a lot more overlaying than we thought possible before.  And if we still have most if not all of that $100,000 contingency left at the end we’ll go ahead and put that into more curb and guttering.”
   The bottom line as to why more can be done than previously expected is that the total committed to the project—$6.36 million—is nearly $2 million above the total Heft bid.  More than half of that $6 million, $3.247 million to be exact, is coming from a USDA grant, while $1.523 million is courtesy of FEMA, with another half million coming from the state.  The city’s share of the expense is just under $1.1 million.
   Hewitt also pointed out the streets guaranteed an overlay/facelift are those “higher traffic areas” such as “Bay, Sycamore and Main…plus 100 percent of the streets in town will get at least a chip and seal job.  But again, we’re going to now be able to do so much more than we thought possible before.”  Greensburg streets have been in a state of disrepair since the tornado, caused primarily by the heavy equipment that moved upon them the summer of 2007 in the course of demolition and debris removal.
   As for when the street project would get underway, Hewitt said he’s expecting Heft to get started by August and to “get as much of it done as possible before the weather brings a halt to it this fall.  They’d (Heft) like to get a majority of it done before winter, but whatever they can’t finish by then they’ll take up again next spring.”  The contract calls for 200 workdays to finish the street work.
In other matters…
*Hewitt also spent a few moments discussing documents covering the preliminary 2010 municipal budget that shows a proposed total expenditure of $3,665,792, of which $1,454,856 is designated as general fund and $1,146,629 as electric utility.
   Other highlights include an estimated property valuation of $5,740,126 within city limits for 2010, which compares with $3,273,902 for the current year and $3,018,412 a year earlier.  Because of the tax rebate nature of the neighborhood revitalization program, however, collection of property taxes will continue at a relatively low level for several years.
  The mill levy will fall slightly for Greensburg residents for the second consecutive year, dropping from 58.518 mills for ’09 to a proposed 57.863 mills for 2010.  At the same time net expenditure for ’09 is listed at $2,867,202 and $3,388,792 for 2010, pointing up the cash flow difficulties facing the City for the next couple of years at best.
   Hewitt said a work session on the budget is planned for August 5, with publication of the proposed budget in The Signal to follow thereafter.  He also said a public hearing on the 2010 municipal budget would be “no later than the early September council meeting.”
*The council approved resolution 988, which authorizes the formation of a Public Building Commission.  The resolution calls for a five-member body all of which will be appointed by council and one of which will be a council member.
*Council also approved the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the two lots of 116 S Pine and 310 E Florida be rezoned from R-1B Residential to CP-O Planned Commercial Office to accommodate the location of the county’s new SRS office at that site.  While the building will occupy the northeast corner of the intersection of Pine and Florida the official address of the new office will be 116 S Pine.
*The meeting concluded with discussion of proceeding with pursuit of a city/county airport authority, Hewitt saying he was “asking for direction, if you want us (primarily him and City Attorney Gordon Stull) to push forward on this so we can get going in that direction.
   Mayor Bob Dixson said it’s important to move forward “so we can be ready by October 1 to get applications in for money (from the federal government) for a 95/5 share.”  While Hewitt noted it would be “difficult to meet that deadline” he continued “it can be done with a lot of work on my part and that of the city attorney.”
   Hewitt also said he’d recently talked with Kiowa County Commission Chair Gene West, a conversation that left him with the impression the “County is eager to go forward with this.”
   “It’s a matter of economic development,” Dixson said.  “That’s why we need to push ahead with it.”  Councilman Matt Christenson added, “Since we’ve just committed to closing the old one (airport) we need to commit to getting started on replacing it.”  Hewitt responded, “I’ll get with Gordon and we’ll try to get information back to you as soon as possible.”
*During the public comment portion of the meeting former councilman Rex Butler asked, “Did we ever do anything with the contaminated (city) well (number eight)?”
   Hewitt responded by saying he was “working with USDA and PEC to (work out the details) of a reverse osmosis system