Councilman offers to tackle Lisbon’s pothole problem

LISBON – For a third consecutive meeting someone complained about the condition of Lisbon’s streets, but this time that someone was a council member who decided to take matters into his own hands.

Village Councilman Joe Morenz took the unusual step of asking for the authority to have direct oversight of the street department and his request was granted by his colleagues at this week’s meeting.

“I’m a hands-on guy and I’d like to be more a part of that,” he told them.

Morenz, who is not a member of the street committee – that would be Jeff Snyder, Roger Gallo and Tom Darcy – was added to the committee by council to give him the authority to begin working directly with the street department in determining what gets done and when.

Like many in the community, Morenz is upset with the general condition of most village streets and alleys, a problem made worse by this past winter, which was particularly harsh. But he is puzzled why so many potholes remain in August when the village has a DuraPatcher machine designed specifically to patch holes and cracks anytime of year quicker and for significantly less money than blacktop.

“The DuraPatcher can do all of that right now,” Morenz said, but he believes the employees, after watching them in action, do not know how to properly operate the machine. “If the procedures are followed that material will stay.”

Gallo agreed, noting other communities with DuraPatchers use them with success, including Center Township, which offered to help train Lisbon’s street department on how to properly use the machine.

“Why is it successful in other subdivisions and not here?” Gallo asked. “We committed to this machine. We spent $64,000 and we are committed to this process.”

Morenz said Center Township trustees claim their DuraPatcher saves them $40,000 a year on blacktop and labor. “The big savings is the labor,” he added.

Street Supervisor Jim Oliver was not at the meeting. In Oliver’s defense, the four-person street department was working at least one employee short for the past month due to a disciplinary matter, but that employee has reportedly returned to work this week.

Oliver submits a monthly report to council and the most recent one indicated that during the prior 20-day work period portions of four days were spent directly patching holes, resurfacing streets or preparing holes to be patched.

The rest of the time was spent on other matters, such as mowing village property, pulling weeds, disposing of brush collected from the June 11 storm, working on the fountain and at the swimming pool, running the street sweeper machine, repairing a village hall bathroom, and miscellaneous other activities.

The decision to give direct oversight authority of the street department was met with the approval of Mayor Dan Bing, who is one of two people the other being the street committee chairman – officially designated as Oliver’s immediate supervisor.

This was added to the street supervisor’s job description when Oliver was hired in 2011 and after the Morning Journal and a former council member pointed out no formal chain of command existed before. This is believed to have contributed to the firing of Oliver’s predecessor, who was taking repair orders from every councilmen and then criticized by them for failing to get anything done in a timely manner.

What brought all of this up was the final bill for resurfacing Jerome Street in time for the Columbiana County Fair. County Engineer Bert Dawson offered to have his staff perform the work in exchange for the village purchasing the blacktop, which ended up costing Lisbon $5,940 – $940 more than expected.

Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner reported they have purchased 416 tons of blacktop to date – 99 tons for Jerome Street alone – at a cost of $25,000. “In the 14 years I’ve been here, we’ve never spent that kind of money,” she said.

Although the DuraPatcher is unsuitable to resurface entire streets, such as the Jerome Street project, Morenz said it would have been used in other situations in place of the more expensive blacktop.

“We’ve got potholes here and potholes there and we can go ahead with that machine” to repair them, he said. “I just don’t get it.”

Wonner said because of village’s finances she has cut the street department off from purchasing any more blacktop and told them to use the DuraPatcher to fix the streets.