Letters to the Editor

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TACOMA: Go private for street repairs

Letter by Steve Duchesne, Tacoma on Feb. 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm with 24 Comments »
February 2, 2012 2:28 pm

Tacoma streets are in serious need of repair. I am aggravated daily when I use the streets in Tacoma.

I live in the Stadium District where the property taxes are sky high. People take care of their homes, yet we have to drive on streets that are crumbling. My car rattles over the bumps and potholes. It’s a disgrace, really. Many side streets in the North End are horrible.

A few years back we had some utilities installed, and half of the road was torn up and needed repaving. The utility work was done by a private company that sub-contracted out the paving portion. The paving company came in and efficiently repaved the road where the utilities were installed. That repaving work looks as good today as it did three years ago.

The city repaired potholes on Tacoma Ave South a couple of months ago. Now there are new holes, and some of the patches are coming apart.

I know part of the problem is the recent winter snowstorm. However patching is not a long-term solution to our street problems. Many streets simply need to be repaved.

I would support new taxes if the money were to go to a private contractor to repave crumbling roads. There are many qualified paving contractors out there who can do the job efficiently and cost-effectively.

 

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  1. Fibonacci says:

    Steve
    Do you have any evidence besides your example that private contractors would do a better job? Also, just what IS the cost difference? I would bet you have no idea at all. Are you aware that most of the money for street repairs came from the car license tabs, which are much less since good old Timmy Eye-man had his unfunded initiative?

  2. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    If the service is listed in the yellow pages it should be contracted out to the private sector. I am sick of paying city workers to stand around with hands in their pockets, one guy working and 5 people joking and toking a cig.

    I want my tax dollors to go to the private sector. I am tired of paying these city union guys and paying their baggage of high retirement and health care cost. Let them work for a living like the rest of us.

  3. wrsw1969 says:

    Boooo Hoooo. They sey should use all the money they get from metered par.king

  4. alindasue says:

    When we had the weatherization done on our house through a city program years back, the work was done by a private contractor. The work was sloppy and the plugs they put in our walls (where the insulation was blown in) were falling out within the first month.

    The point is that a good contractor, when the city finds one, is great, but privatization does not guarantee a better job. The lowest bidder is not always the most economical bidder.

  5. BigSwingingRichard says:

    I agreed with Steve.

    What Steve fails to mention is than in most cases, when the side streets in the North End were torn up for storm drain replacement, only half of each street was repaved, split down the middle.

    Now, there is a new street in one side and old and cracked asphalt on the other which will soon deteriorate into pot holes.

    Our city public works will only repair what they wear out even when repaving the entire street would be more cost effective over time when half the old street was already removed.

    In the oldest part of our city, the streets are over 100 years old, yet it appears to be city policy to replace the streets one shovel full at a time.

  6. ManuelMartini says:

    Steve – the property taxes are proportionately the same regardless of where you live. You don’t deserve special treatment. Wait your turn like the rest of us.

    As a local conservative likes to say “you have the right to start a pro-bono construction company and run around filling holes yourself”

  7. BigSwingingRichard says:

    To ManuelMartini:

    Steve was not asking for preferential treatment. Steve’s suggestion would help everyone if privatization provides more service for less money.

    And by the way, the cost to fill a pothole is the same regardless of where it is located. Actual property taxes paid are greater from the homes with the highest values. The streets near the highest valued homes in Tacoma are worse, because they are some of the oldest parts of the city.

    Repairing the potholes in some parts of Tacoma ARE disproportionally paid for by other parts of the city.

  8. fanciladi says:

    When you see our city workers on the job…there are some that are holding up the truck and others looking on and one, or maybe 2 doing the work. I won’t get into the ‘union’ stuff on this…that’s a completey different and long story.

    Ask most any ‘dirt worker’ working for a good company what they think of city workers and you’ll get an earful! They don’t do it right the first time…no pride in their work… My son did dirtwork when he was working and he’s talked to workers on the job on our street…up close and personal, he could see what was wrong… He’s also talked to those doing city jobs on other streets…same thing.

    We need the potholes fixed…the buses, garbage trucks and etc., are very, very hard on the roads, which makes for bumpy rides for us!

  9. “What Steve fails to mention is than in most cases, when the side streets in the North End were torn up for storm drain replacement, only half of each street was repaved, split down the middle.”

    I don’t know where you live. From the three utility upgrades I’ve seen so far, two paved both sides of the street(N. Cheyenne and N. Mason), and one North 29th paved half the side.

  10. ManuelMartini says:

    I’ve worked with the “dirt workers” for private companies. They are cowboys. They don’t follow safety procedures that require a certain number of workers on a crew, especially when someone is in a hole. Government crews don’t take chances. The private workers complain about government workers, but apply for the openings every chance they get.

    Most people don’t understand any of the safety issues and are the kind of people that would complain if they were hung with a new rope.

  11. yabetchya says:

    MM, So are you saying that the street improvement projects are working? Go down Stevens @ 21st to 30th…not nice after MONTHS of work.. Union to 38th,, my pretty lil truck has a hard time. Months of nothing.J street from Center has become better. South Tacoma Way, ouch !

  12. fanciladi says:

    @ ManuelMartini ~~ I don’t know what companies you have worked for, but they couldn’t be very trustworthy if they don’t follow the safety procedures. They are putting their companies at risk.

    My son has worked for 2 well known construction companies and I have heard him talk about the work. He has one friend, who went from one of these companies to work for the city or county…not sure which…but he knows the difference. Yes, he applied for the government job he wanted an easier job…don’t have to work as hard on a government job…and that’s the truth in most cases.

    In truth many companies are different…I agree…some don’t do things right and really don’t care. Sometimes they are called back to fix issues they didn’t do right in the first place. I know my son wanted to do it right the first time…it’s a mess to go back to fix things……

  13. Publico says:

    So the City puts road work out to bid and selects the lowest bidder as required by statute. Anecdotally, I know of a construction project similar to that. Repaving the N-S runway at the former DC National airport was necessary. When it was completed, all the taxiway lights had been paved over. That’s what the lowest bidder gets you.

  14. fanciladi says:

    @Publico ~~ Yup…I found out the hard way…after my husband passed away, I had some bids for a new roof. Of course, I took the lowest one and I got just what I paid for. In a few years I had a leak…it was on the peak and the company who repaired it for me said it was done wrong. It ended up costing me more than if I had gotten one of the higher bids…and that was even with insurance. Also, it costs in inconvenience and who can really put a price on that!!!

  15. tree_guy says:

    Of course, I took the lowest one and I got just what I paid for.” fanciladi

    Your anecdote is completely irrelevant. When you hired the people to install your roof you obviously were not qualified to sign off on the job. By your own admission you didn’t know they did it “wrong.” When the city hires somebody to install pavement they send somebody out to inspect the quality and quantity of materials. If the work isn’t done per spec and per drawing the contractor doesn’t get paid.

  16. tree_guy says:

    When it was completed, all the taxiway lights had been paved over. That’s what the lowest bidder gets you.” Publico

    For every example you can provide of low bidding contractor who made a mistake there is a corresponding example of a government operation paying prevailing wages which made a mistake. Just a year ago or so the Washington Department of Transportation used prevailing wage workers to install a highway 16 offramp in the wrong place. The error cost the taxpayers about $700,000. I don’t remember any postings from Publico that criticized the use of highly paid prevailing wage labor.

  17. commoncents says:

    Don’t blame the labor for that one tree_guy it was the states engineers that told them where to put it and they were wrong. The prevailing wage workers did exactly what the state told them to do. Oh, and I guess that blows out your theory about government sending someone out to inspect the work doesn’t it? Although, admittedly, it also doesn’t say a whole lot about the DOT except that they don’t have enough inspectors to run multiple projects at the same time as the inspectors originally assigned to monitor the Highway 16 project were reassigned to the HOV lanes on I-5 at Fife.

  18. tree_guy says:

    Publico said that the runway lights were paved over and the cause was the “low bid.” He provided no evidence that the low bid was the cause of the problem. Maybe the cause was poor inspection, poor supervision, or (perhaps even) poor engineering. We can’t blame low priced bidding for the runway light problem.

  19. ManuelMartini says:

    “@ ManuelMartini ~~ I don’t know what companies you have worked for, but they couldn’t be very trustworthy if they don’t follow the safety procedures. They are putting their companies at risk.”

    Everytime you see a “honeybucket”, you’ll know. Then I did work for two more like companies, one owned by a well-known earth mover who had an on-the-job death not long ago and another that I think closed shop.

    People that are “low priced” have to save money on labor because most contractors pay the same for materials and operating costs. Putting one person on a 30 minute hold job, saves the dispatching of two and the minimum costs incured.

    I’d like to know who would bid out their brain surgery to the lowest bidder.

  20. ManuelMartini says:

    “Yes, he applied for the government job he wanted an easier job…don’t have to work as hard on a government job…and that’s the truth in most cases.”

    Absolutely. Because they staff correctly. Government entities avoid lawsuits as much as possible.

  21. concernedtacoma7 says:

    More pro-big govt crap from the usual suspects. The justification this time is safety? We are talking about filing potholes here.

    Obviously the current system of fat union workers fixing our roads is not working.

  22. ManuelMartini says:

    concernedtacoma7 – this is not like your “I want a cookie NOW” routine. You’ll have to get in line and wait like the good boys and girls.

  23. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Kard- please explain what I am waiting for, besides potholes to get fixed correctly? I am not waiting for you to make any sense.

    Oh, and I am waiting for you to explain the moniker change.

  24. ManuelMartini says:

    There was no moniker change, other than in your mind. From this point on, regardless of if you are addressing my comments, I’ll not respond to the name “Kard”. Maybe that will help you.

    As to your question – who are you to say when the city crew will get to YOUR potholes? They serve a lot of people. You are not special because you throw a tantrum about what you want.

    Can I make it any more clear to you than that?

    I’m trying to be patient because you remind me of a child that says “why” over and over. You can be provided all of the answers and still you say “why”.

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