Much work on city of Napa sidewalks and streets was carried out this year, despite pandemic-driven challenges weathered by the city’s public works department.
Struggles endured include funding cuts, a high staffing vacancy rate, and a lack of available materials.
Julie Lucido, the city’s public works director, said at a Napa City Council meeting on Tuesday that one in every three positions in the department was vacant this year, including about half of the engineering department and six out of 22 positions assigned to the city’s streets and sidewalk team.
Michael Berger, public works operation manager, said COVID-19 also resulted in over 2,200 hours of lost time, which is about the number of hours 1.4 full-time employees would work through the course of a year. Berger added the department has dealt with asphalt and concrete shortages, among other shortages, as a result of ongoing supply chain woes.
“Everything we try to procure, it seems like, has had a little twist or added a little delay to our production,” Berger said.
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But, according to Berger, the staffing challenges for the department at least are looking brighter, with eight recruitments currently in progress, which he said would bring the sidewalks team back up near to full staffing.
And some projects are or the works or were completed this year. One accomplishment of the sidewalk program this year was 121 sidewalk repairs in the Vineyard Park Neighborhood — plus 56 repairs along nearby Trower Avenue — which cost $1.1 million, Berger said. The area is planned for street paving in Spring 2022. (Sidewalk work needs to be completed before street paving, according to Berger.)
“It’s a lot of money, but that does represent the engineering, the tree work, the concrete work that all got put into that effort,” Berger said.
Sidewalk repairs were also carried out in several residential areas west of Foster Road and south of Imola Avenue, Berger said. And the city began repairing sidewalks and paving in the Monarch/Paulson area, south of Salvador Avenue and east of Highway 29.
Berger said sidewalk crews began paving in September, which he said is the latest paving season the city’s ever had. The reason for that, he said, was the lack of staff and being unable to secure asphalt. The city's paving ended in November.
Next year, the city is looking to pave the Vineyard Park area; repair concrete and pave the Monarch/Paulson area; and repair concrete and pave the South Franklin area, among other projects.
Jeff Gittings, the city’s parks and urban forestry manager, said the city's urban forestry department works closely with the public works department to handle trees in sidewalk repair projects and has also struggled with vacancies this past year. But the city was able to prune over 1300 trees, and remove and replace about 200 trees through the course of the year, he said.
Mayor Scott Sedgley said he thinks the public works department is doing wonderful work despite the challenges.
“If you don’t live in the specific neighborhood where all that work goes on you might not necessarily see it, but we see it as a council see it as a council, I know the community at large understands it,” Sedgley said.” But it’s like painting the golden gate bridge: you’re always trying to catch up.”
Patrick Band, executive director of the Napa County Bicycle Coalition, said he appreciated the work of the department on bicycle and pedestrian measures, such as conflict striping on streets and repaving the Stanley Lane trail. But, he said, Lucido had mentioned last year that the city has over a 20-year backlog of sidewalk maintenance projects. That means the city still has a great deal of work to accomplish, Band said.
Band also spoke about how keeping the maintenance up will help create safe routes to school for students who may be biking or walking.
“It really underscores that we have to keep doing this work and in fact do more of it in future years,” Band said. “It’s not just that ongoing maintenance, but it’s also fixing those gaps in the pedestrian network where you may be walking down a sidewalk and then it ends, and it may not start again for another 100 or 200 yards. That can be a significant barrier to kids walking or biking to school because then they’re forced to walk in the street, in some cases with 30 or 40 mile an hour traffic.”
Lucido mentioned that the public works department will also be working on projects next year related to traffic safety, a discussion which has been spurred forward by Napa community members and the local movement Slow Down Napa. The department is also involved in an effort, led by the Napa Police Department, to re-evaluate the use of red light camera technology, she said.
The safety plan will be community-driven, Lucido said, and input will be gathered into a Vision Zero Policy framework — defined as “a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all,” according to the presentation.
“We will be doing a roadway safety plan, we will be evaluating the street network, it will be a data-driven plan so we will be analyzing collision data and we’ll conduct community workshops, set up a website, really get a lot of input from our very engaged community to help inform that,” Lucido said.
The Vision Zero framework will, she said: “use all of this information to be able to establish projects and programs and implementation strategies to improve traffic safety.”
Lucido added: “I will use all of this information to be able to establish projects and programs and implementation strategies to improve traffic safety so that’s really, I’ll say road map, pun intended, to get to our next step for traffic safety.”
In other news, the Napa City Council unanimously approved a 5-year plan for capital improvement projects funded by Measure T — the half-cent sales tax for road maintenance. The projects next year include street rehabilitation and pavement work on Laurel Street, maintenance on Browns Valley Road, maintenance on Lincoln Avenue, and pavement repair on local streets, among others.
Edward Booth's most memorable Napa Valley Register stories of 2021
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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.