While utility and public safety vehicles have become accustomed to dealing with huge potholes, overgrown vegetation and junk in the city's alleys, matters came to a head when a person was nearly injured in an alley mishap.
In October, Sonny's Solid Waste asked the City Council to move all residential solid waste pickups to front curbs after a garbage truck's cab was crushed by a large tree limb pulled down by a vegetation as the truck passed through an alley.
After considering the matter and hearing from residents who pleaded for alley pickups to continue, council members decided during their regular December meeting that alley pickups would remain in place but promised the city would step up maintenance of alleys.
"We've been working on and off. We've placed about 100 tons of chat in various places so far," said Steve Lee, street superintendent. "We started a couple weeks ago as weather permitted. Of course, the rain is a deterrent - this time of year it always is."
Lee said the plan is to place another 200 tons of chat, which is a type of gravel, by spring and another 300 tons in alleys by the end of fall for a total of 600 tons.
The street division will use the chat for two main purposes.
First, crews will use the chat to fill large potholes, "especially where they pull off the street or out of the alley on to the street and have to make a turn," Lee said.
The other goal is to address the root of the problem: "It's always been a struggle to maintain these alleys because all they have is a dirt base," Lee said. "Our overall goal is to build a strong chat base over the next several years that will hold up to this heavy traffic from the big trucks."
Once a solid base is established, Lee said, crews won't have to go in as often to maintain them.
Chat goes for about $10 per ton. "We will continue to use millings in some places, as far as filling in low places and small holes," Lee said.
He estimated the city will dedicate about 500 manhours on alley work through the fall.
"We'll probably be in the alleys at least couple days a week," he said, "usually with a two-man crew - one to haul the chat in, and one to spread it with a box blade, backhoe or loader, whichever equipment we have available."
Lee said the city has about 150 miles of paved streets. Plans are to gather data on exactly how many miles of pavement and alley the city has.
"We just are going to try to make things better," Lee said. "It should be a lot less aggravating for all the utility companies that have to use those alleys including the city."