City of Muncie Takes a Proactive Approach to Milling and Repaving Local Roads
Writer / Melissa Stalb
Photographer / Amy Payne
When Mayor Dan Ridenour took office in January of 2020, he launched a new program with the Street Department that was, to some, unconventional.
Paving and repairing city streets is an ongoing need for any community. It’s also the subject many elected officials tackle early in their term, resurfacing roads to show progress and action from leadership.
Most municipalities contract the work, spend additional funds and are subject to a contractor’s schedule.
Ridenour took a different approach.
“We have roughly 378 miles of streets within the city limits and there have been challenges since the pandemic, getting enough contractors to do the job,” Ridenour says. “It’s a daunting task and the majority of our streets are residential.”
In addition, Ridenour wasn’t interested in just resurfacing. He wanted to fix structural issues, and completely mill and repave the roads – a process that extends the quality of the roads another 12 to 15 years.
Instead of relying on outside sources, Ridenour and city leaders chose to train Street Department employees and purchase the necessary equipment. While training is ongoing, Ridenour says several small streets have been repaved with success, and the team will continue.
“This is the first time our existing Street Department employees have had both the equipment and training to pave the streets themselves,” says Michele Owen, director of communications for the City of Muncie. “We’ve done the same thing with concrete. We have our own sidewalk crew as well.”
Not only is the staff working to improve the streets, but they’re having fun with it too.
“We bought the machine and even asked the community to name it,” Ridenour says. “So, Chewy is our milling machine. We also bought a paver – not one where we could do our largest streets, but this can help with the residential areas.”
According to the mayor, doing this type of work in-house gets the job done for about half the cost, and Ridenour is hopeful the impact will be substantial.
In addition, staff members with the Street Department can now replace, repair and repave roads at their own discretion.
Employees see the value of the training as well.
“There’s a good career development piece there too,” Owen says. “Skilled laborers have gone up so much in value, and they’re coming along nicely.”
For those who know Ridenour, the big-picture take on day-to-day operations shouldn’t be a surprise. He comes from a financial background and typically thinks in terms of investment.
“We’ve hired an in-house engineer, Adam Leach, which will also save in the long run,” Owen says. “We’ve seen major development, a successful remote-worker program and a lot of positive economic impact. Mayor Ridenour really looks at long-term, quality-of-life investments.”
So far, the new approach has been well-received by the community.
“We feel like we’re making a difference in our community and that makes me happy,” Ridenour says. “I hope the citizens are just as happy.”
For more information on current and future projects, visit cityofmuncie.com.