Missoula's Public Works office needs more employees to maintain streets, before the maintenance schedule on the city's 300 miles of roadways grows any longer, its director said Wednesday.

In a budget committee hearing, Public Works Director Jeremy Keene asked for six new full-time employees in the department including four for streets. At its current staffing levels, Missoula's city streets are on a 15-year maintenance schedule, but in five years the city will be on a 17-year schedule if the staffing numbers remain, he said.

Adding those five street maintenance laborers is one step in getting that schedule down to 10 years, he said. The cost for these new employees and building materials comes to about $586,000, all but $75,255 of which is already covered in the mayor's proposed budget.

Keene also made a pitch for a comprehensive roadway evaluation of pavement condition around the city, which would later identify the areas of greatest need. The city can use $75,000 in federal funding specifically to begin data collection, and the analysis down the road could save the city millions in reconstruction costs, he said.

This allows the city to be proactive with road maintenance, Keene said, rather than reactive.

"Rather than doing it by windshield, just looking at the streets, this will give us a much more scientific look at it," he said. 

Additionally, Public Works seeks to add:

  • a business finance manager position to its administration: $107,620, funded in the mayor's proposed budget
  • street light maintenance: $30,000, funded by proposed budget
  • traffic signal maintenance: $20,000, funded by proposed budget
  • three pickup trucks with mounted snow plows to provide better response in residential areas: $150,270, currently funded in mayor's budget

Dennis Bowman, deputy public works director for utilities, is looking at nearly $815,000 for storm water capital improvements for the storm water system, for maintenance of existing infrastructure, and the addition of new infrastructure in the coming year.

Both repairs and additions are required by a federal Environmental Protection Agency permit that guides improvements at the local level to eliminate pollution leaking into the area's water bodies; the permit was issued after an audit in May found a number of violations.

From 2020 through 2024, the cost of these projects is expected to reach $5.4 million. Those drainages required for improvements in 2020 include Upper Gharrett, Caras Park, Pattee Creek, Mansion Heights Drive, and Hillview Way to Alliance Way.

"If we don't address the violations that are found, we will see monetary fines," Bowman told committee members.

The city attorney's office also hopes to add another full-time employee to its ranks. City Attorney Jim Nugent said there are eight attorneys in his office, five of whom prosecute criminal cases. Adding another, he said, would allow prosecutors to specialize in domestic violence and sexual assault cases, properly prepare ahead of trials, and keep up with the growing number of mental health-related cases. 

That leaves three attorneys to handle civil and administrative matters, including legal work for the city's housing authority and the Mountain Water case. Nugent said there may be a need in those areas soon. 

"Don't be surprised if we ask for a civil attorney somewhere in the near future," he told the committee.

The one attorney requested Wednesday is covered in the mayor's proposed budget, at a cost of $104,490.

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