This week, readers had construction questions, both about Hutchinson streets and funding efforts for a border wall.
Here are two related questions about two different streets in Hutchinson:
Q: Nickerson Boulevard from Whiteside to Hendricks is in very poor condition. There is a large pothole and the striping is very difficult to see. Why has the city neglected this area? It’s very uninviting to people coming into town from the west.
Q: I travel the Woodie Seat Freeway daily to and from South Hutchinson and there are too many large potholes to count! I know that some motorcyclists were hurt due to a pothole while exiting off the freeway at Avenue F. Does someone have to be killed before these get repaired? Our cars are taking a beating. Who is responsible for this matter?
The Hutchinson street department takes into account the needs of the community, conditions across town, complaints from residents who drive these areas every day, and more in prioritizing resources for street maintenance.
“Usually there are more streets requiring work than we have funding for,” explained Jeff Peterson, traffic engineer for the City of Hutchinson. “Things can also change pretty quick if we have a bad winter.”
On the Woodie Seat Freeway, the city is aware of its condition and is planning on major improvements that will make best use of tax dollars.
“Long term, the city is doing a study on the best way to rehab the Woodie Seat Freeway. There’s bridge maintenance that needs to happen there too, and that could be costly,” Peterson said. “We should get results this spring.”
The plan right now is to perform some smaller fixes so the road remains drivable, and major work would start in the spring when the city receives the study’s results.
“We don’t want to do something major and then have to do it again,” Peterson explained.
On Nickerson Boulevard, Cecil Weible, street supervisor, said the city is determining what sort of fix is appropriate.
“We typically use hot asphalt, which doesn’t hold during this time of year, so we usually have to wait spring for major fixes,” Weible said.
When it comes to trouble spots on Hutchinson roads, calling in pothole locations can help the city in planning maintenance. There’s only so many street department employees, so someone may not spot a problem right away.
“There are times that we don’t know about a pothole until someone calls it in,” Weible said. “As requests come in, we go out and look at it to determine if it’s a big project or something we can do a temporary fix on until we can go in and do more later.”
Q: We have heard there is a GoFundMe site to help fund the wall. Can you tell us anything about this website? All I remember is that the guy who started it is Brian Kolfage.
The “We the People Will Fund The Wall” page, created by Brian Kolfage, went up on the fundraising site on Dec. 16 and has since seen donations from more than 330,000 people. It’s raised more than $20 million so far.
Kolfage, a Purple Heart recipient, asks contributors to help pay for the wall proposed by President Donald Trump when he was running for president.
As for the site itself, GoFundMe is a for-profit website that allows people to raise money for events. This can be anything from celebrations to challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses. Anyone can set up a fundraiser for anything, and since it's online, strangers from around the world can donate to causes they agree with.
The downside is that anyone can create a fundraiser, even those with malicious intent. GoFundMe encourages users to use common sense when donating and offers ways to report potentially fraudulent fundraisers.
While the border wall account has been growing, there is a question as to whether the GoFundMe donations can be given to the federal government to help build a wall. Without congressional approval, the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that would fund such a wall, cannot accept money donated from private citizens.
According to the agency’s written policy, federal law bans them from accepting gifts, which would include this fundraiser, unless they are approved beforehand.
On the We the People Will Fund The Wall page, Kolfage said that the Trump administration had been contacted to “secure a point of contact where all the funds will go upon completion,” and that “We will hold all funds and not release a single penny until we have all legal aspects covered to ensure our money goes only to the wall.”
Kolfage said he worked with Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi, who introduced a bill that would have the Treasury Department put the funds into savings bonds that would allow the donations to be used only for the border wall.
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