CITY HALL – Some city aldermen are griping that the cost of studies of proposed speed bumps are eating into funds to pave streets, buy park benches and trash cans along major streets and do other capital projects in their wards.
The concerns caused First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus to introduce a bill at Thursday’s Board of Alderman meeting saying that individual aldermen may or may not request a study for a proposed speed bump. Under the bill, the streets department would not assess their Ward Capital Improvement Sales Tax Funds.
“As long as the engineers’ design for the speed bump is proper, there’s no need for a study,” Tyus said. She said that almost every alderman she’s spoken to about this agrees that the cost shouldn’t come out of ward capital improvement sales tax funds.
In 1993, city voters approved a measure to raise the sales tax by half a cent. Half of the money was to be split evenly among the 28 wards and used in those wards.
Twenty Second Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd quizzed City Streets Department Director Jamie Wilson about the matter during an aldermanic hearing on the budget on Wednesday.
“The whole speed bump deal has become so popular,” Boyd told Wilson at a meeting of the aldermanic Ways and Means Committee. That committee handles budget and financial issues. “The expectation is that the alderman pay for it out of their capital [budget] is starting to really reduce the amount of capital that we can actually spend.”
Wilson told Boyd that his department wouldn’t charge individual ward capital funds for the first five speed bump studies. Afterwards, he’ll charge the ward funds about $1,000 for each study. The actual speed bumps cost about $3,000 to $3,500 each.
“We just couldn’t keep up with the demands,” Wilson said. “That’s how we ended up where we’re at.” Individual traffic contractors get contracts for the rest, he said.
Under questioning from Boyd, Wilson said the cost of paving a block of a street was roughly $12,000.
“I just find it difficult to manage a budget when people keep asking for speed humps,” Boyd said. “We may not have any money to do the study or to actually install the speed humps. And then we end up being the mad people because we don’t have any money for it.”
According to Tyus’ bill, under a city traffic calming policy, the streets department director is required to perform a study to determine whether a speed bump is needed. That process has taken as much as two years, the bill said.
Some time in the spring of 2019, the bill said, a new policy said the city would contract all traffic studies at a cost of $900, to be assessed whether the study was approved or not. (Wilson said at the committee meeting that the cost was $1,000.) The Board of Aldermen did not approve this procedure, the bill said.
Under that bill, the Board of Public Service, which does street construction work, would grant all requests by aldermen in alleys or residential or secondary streets,