City Life: Thank council for repairing Costa Mesa roads

My 2003 automobile has a lot in common with the street maintenance now underway throughout Mesa Verde.

I bought the Lincoln Town Car used, with 20,000 miles, in 2004, after the transmission on our minivan failed on the way to Lake Tahoe.

Since then, I have logged an additional 144,000 miles. The oil is changed regularly. The tires are rotated on schedule, the wheels are aligned as necessary, and the transmission is serviced in accordance with the recommendations in the owner's manual.

The car gets tune-ups too. The exterior is well-maintained and sports a paint job that looks new. The car runs as nice as it did the day I drove it home. In fact, we have made two more trips to Lake Tahoe this year alone, one in a blinding snow storm.

My reward for all this auto love?

In the seven and a half years I've owned the car, and the 144,000 miles I have driven it, I have not spent 1 cent on a mechanical repair. One of the two main reasons I have been spared those large, agonizing repair bills — and the inconvenience of being without the car — is because it is well-engineered. The other reason is because I have been taking very good care of it.

The same can be said for my daughter's car, which is 11 years old. That car, a Chevy Malibu, gets the same attention, and since we bought it new in 2000, we have spent about $150 in repairs.

Which brings us to the work on the streets of Mesa Verde. Drive around some of the tract today and you'll see outsourced crews working with cement and asphalt to help maintain an attractive residential section of town.

Besides the street work, they are breaking up sidewalks buckled by tree roots and laying down new cement in its place. No buckled sidewalks means no trip hazards. No trip hazards mean no injuries. And no injuries mean no lawsuits.

There is a chorus in Costa Mesa that will whine about any decision made by the current City Council majority. But in the critics' rush to condemn the council for spending about $11.5 million on maintenance, they have exposed their financial ignorance.

Maintenance is not optional. For any enterprise, whether it is a business or a government, maintenance is built into budgets.

The cost of maintenance is included in the calculations when a new project, such as a swimming pool or soccer field, is considered. Maintaining equipment, facilities and streets means we pay a little now to avoid paying a lot later on.

Readers who have been in Newport-Mesa for 20 years will recall what happens when councils, and boards don't pay the little bill. In the 1990s, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District began to defer maintenance and used the money instead for other expenses.

They did that for several years until the conditions in many schools were intolerable: Roofs leaked during rainstorms, and trash cans were placed in classrooms to catch water. Bathrooms were broken to the point of disgust. Plumbing and electrical problems abounded.

In the mid-90s, the school repair bill was estimated at about $15 million. Five years later, in June 2000, "Measure A bond debt was approved by voters … to help make $110 million in repairs to schools that were more than 25 years old," according to a 2010 Daily Pilot report on the restructuring of that debt.

Much of that $110 million could have been avoided with better stewardship of our tax dollars. And that figure does not include the money required to service the bond debt.

So the next time you see a crew maintaining city-owned property, particularly if you are a member of a city union, remember to thank the council members who approved it because they just saved us all a lot of money down the road.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.

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