By MELINDA WILLIAMS
When Dublin Town Manager Bill Parker met with state transportation officials early last year to point out specific street maintenance issues, he said it was the best meeting he had had with them since becoming town manager. Parker and Dublin Town Council members were optimistic road conditions would be improving.
However, more than a year later they say few, if any, of the problems pinpointed have been addressed and street conditions have only continued to deteriorate. At last week’s council meeting, Virginia Department of Transportation Resident Maintenance Manager David Clarke was present to hear council’s concerns.
Councilman Dallas Cox told Clarke that the condition of town streets is probably the biggest complaint he receives from citizens.
“As you know, this past fiscal year has been pretty rough on us weather wise,” Clarke said. “We’ve mostly spent our time and budget cleaning up messes, so to speak. We’re catching potholes as we can.”
Clarke said that while VDOT is entering “paving season,” its budget for paving is smaller than prior years, “so you won’t be seeing as much paving, surface treating or tar and gravel.”
As he did in January 2012, Clarke pointed out to council that due to Dublin’s small population streets are maintained by VDOT. Pulaski and other towns with populations over 3,500 receive funds from the state to maintain their own streets.
Asked who determines the priority for street repairs, Clarke responded superintendent Anthony Barnes at VDOT’s Dublin shop on Bagging Plant Road. He “is responsible for the streets in Dublin just as he’s responsible for the streets in Hiwassee,” Clarke said.
Mayor Benny Skeens said Dublin’s streets have been looked over several years “because (Barnes) didn’t realize that’s how it works.” He and Parker told Clarke that every time the superintendent changes at the Dublin office there’s a training period Dublin has to go through with them.
“Are you saying Dublin’s streets have the same priority as Hiwassee’s?” asked Cox.
Clarke said he was saying that the superintendent has Dublin’s streets to contend with just like the ones in Hiwassee and Little Creek ….
Everyone chuckled as Cox said that’s not what he had asked and Clarke responded, “but that’s what I said.”
“Yes, they do (have the same priority),” Clarke said.
At that point, someone suggested Dublin and Hiwassee streets would both be maintained if they had equal priority.
Council members said Dublin’s streets are getting “little or no maintenance” and they asked Clarke why Dublin is “being passed over year after year after year.”
Clarke said they aren’t, adding that VDOT staff “patch potholes all the time.”
Skeens said he walks every street in Dublin at least once a week and “I can take you to some places you could bury a good sized cow in.” He said he doesn’t think VDOT intentionally “neglected” the town’s streets. He attributed the oversight to a change in superintendents.
“We’ve got some situations now where if it’s not addressed, we’re going to have a terrible mess,” said Councilman David Shrewsbury. He questioned what happened to the repairs suggested when VDOT officials toured the town with Parker in January 2012.
“I think we did all of those things,” Clarke responded.
Council and Parker disagreed. Some said nothing was done.
Skeens said someone did fix a problem of swelled and busted pavement on Walnut Avenue after he called a district manager. He added that council isn’t trying to “lynch” Clarke, but rather is trying to raise awareness of the maintenance needs of the town’s streets.
“We represent town citizens who also buy gas and pay state taxes and they feel the town of Dublin’s roads need to be better maintained,” said Shrewsbury.
Cox said citizens think town council is responsible for the condition of streets, not VDOT.
Skeens suggested VDOT get together with Parker and the town’s street committee again to compile a list of what needs to be done and start anew and then work together to get it done. He thanked Clarke for attending the meeting and said they didn’t intend to “ambush” him, but “it’s something that’s been a problem for us and we felt to get it resolved we needed someone at least at your level to come hear the concerns.”