The snow, ice and freezing temperatures that hit hard and fast this fall and winter have taken a toll on Walla Walla streets -- potholes seem to be everywhere.
Fortunately, the city's Public Works Department has made filling those potholes a priority. Operations Superintendent Tom Purcell said city crews are filling 40 to 60 potholes a day.
"I'm too much of a perfectionist to think we are keeping up with (the potholes)," Purcell said, "but we are doing better than we have been in the last few years."
This year the city has the money and manpower for the job as a result of the Infrastructure Repair and Replacement Plan. The program to upgrade the pipes under the streets and the streets themselves was put into action by the decision to increase utility rates. Having money available for street work has allowed the city to target potholes and also put down more salt at intersections when the temperatures are below freezing.
Ironically, other parts of city government have been cut as the Great Recession has resulted in a reduction in sales tax collected.
"It feels good to provide better service," Purcell said.
This winter and fall seems to have been wetter and colder than usual. When water gets into the cracks in streets it expands when it freezes, creating potholes.
The city's goal is to fill in potholes within 24 hours of being notified by citizens -- weather permitting (as in not freezing). Given the city's 135 miles of roads and the unusually cold weather, it's been difficult to keep up, Purcell said.
"Our pothole breeding program is successful," Purcell joked.
But Purcell said the city's focus on pothole repair is no laughing matter at City Hall. Everyone from the city manager to those using the shovels are serious about patching the potholes.
They should be. Filling potholes is a basic and important service of government. Few things are as irritating to taxpayers than to drive through the same -- or expanding -- potholes day after day.
Filling potholes, and doing it quickly, is a wise use of tax dollars.
To report potholes in need of repair call the city Street Department at 527-4363.
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