BARSTOW A limited city engineering staff and a tight personnel budget has resulted in a backlog of unfinished street repair projects.

Construction has yet to begin for 13 street repair projects budgeted for in 2008-09, and 13 more projects have been budgeted for this year, City Manager Richard Rowe said. Last week he met with Merrell-Johnson Inc., an engineering consultant with offices in Victorville and Barstow, and asked them to put together a proposal for a part-time assistant to tackle the street projects, he said.

The construction of street repair projects budgeted for this year and last year were paid for from Measure I sales tax funds and gasoline tax revenues, Rowe said. But only three employees, including City Engineer Nick Nichols, work in the engineering department and have to deal with other capital improvement projects as well, such as storm drain improvements, Rowe said. The economic downturn has caused sales tax revenues to dwindle, and since the state has gone ahead with borrowing from local property tax revenues, Rowe said the city hasn't had the money to hire additional staff.

"I have seven other (open) positions in the city that have gone unfunded, and I save $550,000 by not funding those positions," he said. "Frankly what I need is a full-time third employee in the engineering office."

A civil engineer has to approve final plans for major street repairs, specifying the type of material to be used, what will be done with old material and what the structure of the project will be, Rowe said. Engineers are also charged with inspecting existing projects, he said. The engineering assistant the city contracts will spend most of his time in the office focusing on the designs and specifications of the remaining projects, Rowe said.

All plans for major road repairs, such as total reconstructions, are put together and overseen by the city's engineering department, City Spokesman John Rader wrote in an e-mail Friday. Construction is done by hired contractors, he said.

One ongoing street repair project is the Barstow Road and Citrine Road projects. Reconstruction of Barstow Road between Virginia Way and Grace Street on the north side of the Interstate 15 overpass began July 23 and was scheduled to finish Friday. However, contruction is not yet complete. Rader said the delay was because the moisture content in the material that will be under the asphalt wasn't at the necessary level. The road's repaving will take place Tuesday or Wednesday, he said. That project is expected to be completed slightly under budget, Rader said. The total cost of construction on both roads was $168,400.

After the Barstow Road project, Rader said construction will take place on Lenwood Road between Serrano Drive and Commerce Parkway.

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(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com