By John Schaffner
Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook says he’ll put his shoe leather to the pavement and walk every mile of the 244 streets in his Buckhead district, documenting problems the city needs to fix.
As of April 29, he had completed about 12-13 miles and walked nearly 100 streets, or about 40 percent of the total number of streets.
“I estimate there are about 25-30 miles of streets in District 7 that I will need to walk,” said Shook.
Now that he is not chairing one of the council’s major committees, Shook said he has more time to spend in his district.
“When I have a couple of hours, I get my digital camera and my Blackberry and I map out where I am going to walk that day,” he said.
“I am checking up on all the stuff in the public right-of-way—conditions of the streets, conditions of the sidewalks, storm drains, pot holes, uncovered water meters and such. I have done about 75 percent of North Buckhead (neighborhood), which is geographically the biggest neighborhood.”
Although he says he is not an expert, “I am noting the condition of the streets. We do have access to state money each year to get a few streets paved. They tried to cut those funds last year, but I think they are planning to leave it alone this year,” he said.
“If the bond referendum is successful we will be able to do a lot of streets,” he said. “I want a good list. I don’t want to rely on neighborhoods, because they will list every street in their neighborhood. I want to personally walk every street.”
So far, “probably half the streets I have walked are okay now, but in 10 years they will need work,” he said. “There are some streets that are disastrous right now. Most streets are okay, but they have severe problems that need to be addressed.”
Shook plans to compile the information onto a map and deliver the district’s infrastructure repair and replacement needs to the appropriate city departments. A report in 2008 found that city had $750 million of public infrastructure needs aside from water and sewer fixes. Paved streets and bridges accounted for 56 percent of the total capital backlog. The city would have to spend approximately $100 million each year funding repairs.
Addressing the abundance of potholes throughout Buckhead streets, Shook explained, “The ‘Pothole Posse’ fixed a lot of potholes. It got to the point it was difficult to find a pothole. But they did not fix the underlying problems that were causing the potholes. So here we are eight years later and the potholes are back.”
Asked about the continuing problem of streets being torn up, patched and paved and then torn up again, Shook said “Watershed Management has money and can get streets repaved after they do their work in neighborhoods. Public Works does not have money for paving streets.
“I go to Watershed Management and say, ‘If you come in and do work on someone’s street, don’t leave patches on patches. You have to pave these streets,’ ” he said. “You have to leave them something for their time and trouble.”
Shook said city departments rarely coordinate work they are planning on the city’s streets. “Unfortunately, Atlanta has developed that to sort of an art form,” he said.