What started as a possible long-term plan to save money turned into a heated debate during the Bear Valley Community Services District meeting on June 12.
Larry Tuma, public works superintendent for Bear Valley, came to the board to request to put out bids for a test case that would possibly supplement costs on a $2 million road resurfacing program in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Bear Valley's public works department is currently working to develop a capital improvement plan to set priorities for roads within the district for resurfacing. The plan would utilize a software program called Micro-Paver, which calculates the appropriate cost by square foot on a road based on the road's quality.
Tuma presented options that would include newer resurfacing techniques not included in the Micro-Paver technology.
Tuma said he had conducted some site visits in Ridgecrest before and after some of the techniques been used. Ridgecrest is currently undergoing a glut of road projects during its paving season, which extends from late April to October.
"The staff feels that these products could be utilized at great cost effectiveness to Bear Valley," Tuma said.
Tuma proposed substitutions of some roads tentatively proposed for resurfacing: Lower Valley Road between Cumberland Road and Pinedale Drive, and on Pinedale Drive between Lower Valley Road and Lower Valley Road.
Unlike a city like Tehachapi, which receives state gas tax funds and sales tax, Bear Valley's only revenue for road projects is its road assessment fees.
"There's great potential that we can repair these roads that have a lower (pavement condition index)," Tuma said.
Pavement condition index, or PCI, is used to measure the quality of a road. The system was developed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The proposed section of Lower Valley Road, for example, has a PCI rating between 27 and 35, or very poor condition.
Tuma proposed a multi-resurfacing cape seal treatment. He estimated the cost to be about $75,000.
Overall, Tuma proposed targeting a road like Lower Valley Road for treatment as opposed to one that was in better shape.
The proposal met with stiff resistance from Bill Mason, the board president, who insisted that it was not part of a preferred method prepared by JG3 Consulting and presented back in 2013.
"Until I see the Micro-Paver-guided pavement management system plan for the next five years, I am not willing to approve this project," Mason said. "This is not the plan we settled on."
The pavement management system is due to be presented to the board in July. It calls for $2 million in projects up front, followed by $250,000 in years two through five.
While the pavement management system has not been approved yet, the $2 million has for the upcoming fiscal year.
"This is a better project than strictly what the Micro-Paver proposes," Tuma countered. He presented photos of before and after examples from the Ridgecrest projects he had visited, adding that horrible roads seemed to have been greatly improved.
Mason stuck to his original goal, chiding Tuma for the proposal.
"You're not going by the plan and ignoring the plan," Mason said. "After you have the plan, what you're substituting and what the effect is on the overall PCI."
A flustered Tuma reiterated that the alternative testing could provide a more cost-effective option to improve road quality in Bear Valley that could be used in conjunction with the options provided by J3G Consulting.
Director Gil Grace concurred with Mason's stance.
"I think we agreed that the maintenance program would be driven by Micro-Paver system," Grace said. "We paid a lot of money for that program. The board got it specifically so we could drive our maintenance program on the roads based upon what the program told us."
Directors Matt VoVilla, Charlene LaClaire and Rick Zanutto seemed more partial to allowing Tuma to solicit bids.
"I think looking at some different products is worthwhile and I would like to commend Mr. Tuma for looking at them," VoVilla. "It seems like the cost of this is roughly half of conventional treatments."
He added if the treatment allowed a Bear Valley road to survive a winter, it would be worth exploring it more.
Prior to the vote, Bear Valley resident Jim Nelson took Grace and Mason to task for shooting down an idea.
"It sounds to me that some members of this board are being blinded by the fact that you spent so much money on Micro-Paver," Nelson said. "You're not seeing the whole picture with Larry trying to save the district a little bit of money and will not budge on it."
Mason countered it was more of a philosophy than the cost.
"I don't want to get the technology ahead of the plan," Mason said.
Zanutto made the motion to solicit bids, noting that it would allow the board to gauge much a project like Tuma proposed would cost.
The board voted 3-2 to allow Tuma to solicit bids, with Directors Mason and Grace dissenting.