While there is a need to improve street infrastructure in Jefferson City, the mayoral candidates had different suggestions for how to do so during Tuesday's News Tribune candidate forum.
The city currently allocates $1.2 million from the half-cent sales tax each year for the resurfacing program, which includes overlay and surface seal projects, city staff previously said.
Candidate and current Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said she has heard several concerns about road conditions, especially following the months of winter weather. While there is a growing number of infrastructure needs in the community, she added, the Jefferson City Council must continue to balance that with other city needs.
"Yes, the resources are very limited but we have to prioritize and figure out which streets are in the highest need for repair based within the resources that we have and the dollars we have to spend," she said. "Yes, it would be nice to have more, but that would mean taking away from other areas — so it's a balance."
Tergin said she was not sure where extra funds for infrastructure could come from. She added she "would not advocate" for taking funds away from the other city departments, including public safety.
Since this is the Capital City, candidate Tiwan Lewis said, street conditions are "very important." If the city cannot allocate more funds toward fixing roads, she added, she would turn to Cole County and the state of Missouri for help with funding.
If the county and state can't help fund the street projects, Lewis added, the city could fundraise and put those funds toward repairing the streets. City officials could also pursue grants that could help provide extra money for projects.
"Let's get our roads done. People don't need their cars tore up," she said. "Let's make this happen, looking between the county and the state and some kind of grant funding for infrastructure."
Last year, Missouri residents voted against Proposition D, which proposed an increase in Missouri's fuel tax to help allocate funds for improvements to highways and bridges.
Also during Tuesday's forum, both candidates said Jefferson City is safe for its residents but there is still room for growth.
While Jefferson City is a safe community, Lewis said, the city must address the increased crime rate involving youths. For the rate to decrease, she added, it will take community investors educating young people, families coming together, and churches and nonprofits working together.
"We've got to tackle this youth problem," Lewis said. "We need to get to the high school before they get out of school. We need to go to Lincoln (University) and direct them to where they can go."
With public safety being one of her top concerns, Tergin said, the city must continue to invest in public safety infrastructure, like the new Fire Station No. 2, and equipment, like new police vehicles and the Jefferson City Police Department's mass notification system.
"We're doing our best to keep the community and public safe but, at the city level, (it) is definitely keeping up with infrastructure and the needs of our police and fire departments," she said.
Jefferson City residents will vote for the mayor candidates April 2.