by Briana Aguilar
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
Many people might like the ice cream flavor named “rocky road,” but they might not enjoy driving on— or living on — that rocky road.
“There are currently 20.97 miles of unpaved road in Durham, which the city maintains,” says Nathan McHenry, Engineering Services Supervisor at Public Works. Many streets like Kate Street and S. Briggs Avenue are a few of the 175 roads in Durham that have yet to be paved.
“I have lived in Durham all of my life,” says Donald Yaboro owner of Triangle Mobile Storage. “One road that causes the biggest controversy is Harvard Road. Citizens have been trying to get paved for over 20 years.”
If you are resident of NECD with gravel, dirt, or unpaved roads and you would like to get them paved, you must petition the City of Durham. “The normal process is for a citizen or group of citizens to request a petition to have a particular street paved,” says McHenry.
The petition issued must define limits of the project such as the property owners that live or own a house in the particular area.
“In order for a petition to be deemed valid it must contain a majority of the property owners’ signatures, and they must represent the majority of the road frontage involved in the project,” says McHenry. The sponsor has 90 days to circulate the petition.
After the petition has been signed, it is returned to the office to verify signatures and if the petition meets the requirements then a public hearing with City Council will be scheduled to consider ordering the project.
“Once ordered it goes in queue and awaits funding,” says McHenry.
Property owners like local activist Melvin Whitley would like their roads paved.
“I would like to raise my property value,” says Whitley. “I don’t mind paying more money if it’s going to raise the value. It’s worth it to me.”
The biggest problem with getting the roads paved is getting the proper signatures to complete the petitioning process. A lot of the people who live on Harvard Avenue are renters.
“The owners are only concerned with collecting their rent, and don’t want to pay more in taxes,” says Whitley.
For this reason, Whitley feels that the current system discriminates against low income areas such as NECD which has a high percentage of renters.
While approved streets are waiting for funding, there is a bidding process for the contractors. The bid is a price that contractors propose to do the specific job (in this case the unpaved streets that have been approved by city council).
They start off with a pre-bid conference which is held to address any questions from the contractors regarding the project.
Projects are advertised for 30 days so contractors can decide if they would like to bid on the property. The lowest bidder will be accepted if they meet contract documents requirements.
With Durham trying to restore itself to its original beauty people may wonder why the city wouldn’t do everything they can to get these roads paved.
“Unfortunately the cost to pave roads is high,” says McHenry. “Currently the cost is approximately $300-$350 per linear foot.”
Whitley has a solution that he believes will speed up and help the get these roads paved faster. He proposes that the city pave a certain amount of streets per year until they have all been paved.
Luckily for the residents of Harvard Road, they will not have to wait much longer. Whitley has received confirmation that Harvard Road is scheduled to be paved spring 2010.