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October 21, 2014, 3:38 am
970 WMAY News

Public Works Provides Stark Reality Check in Budget Hearing

Springfield's Public Works Department has proposed a budget that is just over 2.1 percent under last year's numbers at nearly $42 million dollars while warning of potential problems in the city's infrastructure down the road.


The biggest increase in the budget for FY2014 is for electronic data processing to bring in new technology making the department more efficient. Personal services and fringe benefits are proposed to be down by nearly $100,000.


There are 66 fewer employees in Public Works' budget for the coming year than there were six years ago.


Another major component of the Public Works budget is the increase of funds for infrastructure improvements. 


Public Works Director Mark Mahoney says the city should be spending $44 million on infrastructure improvements in a perfect world, but the actual number is a fraction of that.


The lack of infrastructure improvements is evident in the number of poor ratings in roads over the past few years, according to the Public Works director.


Mahoney says there needs to be a substantial increase in preventative pavement maintenance in the coming years.


As for infrastructure funds coming from gambling revenue, Mahoney says it's still unclear how much will be brought in for the coming year.


Mahoney says, as with most cities around the country, Springfield's infrastructure is in decline.  He says that it can either be funded now or later, but it will cost more to fund it later.  


The department proposes in the future there be an annual maintenance plan with increased funds for streets, sidewalks, and storm sewers with a 10 year sanitary sewer capital improvement plan of $5.5 million annually.  


Alderman Gail Simpson says there needs to be an influx of revenue to address what she calls a stark reality check of Springfield's crumbling infrastructure.  She says the choices will be tough, but something like a one-percent tax increase on dining could provide that needed revenue stream.  


Mahoney says that at some point someone has to pay for the maintenance and infrastructure modernization.


Alderman Doris Turner says she's concerned about infrastructure improvements in the future being lopsided and creating what she called a two tiered segregated city.


Mahoney says public works is looking for every possible place to save money in order to use towards infrastructure improvements but it just won't be enough.

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