Arlington Road is one of Riverside’s shortest streets. But it’s on its way to becoming a big headache for the members of the village board, who have begun debating just how to pay for major improvements to the street.

The problem is the condition of the roadway itself, a grid of 30-foot concrete slabs. The road, just a block long, was scheduled for resurfacing in 2006, a job slated to be paid for with money the village received when it issued bonds in 2004 for that purpose.

But time and neglect have thrown a monkey wrench into that plan. While engineers did their preliminary design work for next year’s street projects, they concluded that the condition of Arlington Road was worse than anticipated. Virtually 100 percent of the street’s concrete slabs were cracked, slabs were displaced and nearly all the curbs and gutters needed to be adjusted for drainage.

The bottom line for Arlington Road jumped from a project expected to cost $18,800 to one approaching $165,000.

Now residents of the block may face the creation of a Special Service Area to completely reconstruct the failing street. The SSA would impose a separate tax on homeowners of the block to fund the project.

That got Trustee Thomas Shields blood to boiling. Shields lives on Arlington Road.

In an e-mail to Village Manager Kathleen Rush, Shields complained that creating an SSA would tax residents of that street twice for what amounted to fixing something that “is a direct result of village neglect.”

Instead of creating an SSA, Shields argued that the village should use money obtained from the 2004 bond issue, writing “there was never any warning that an SSA might be used for street work once the bond issue was sold. You can be assured that I would have campaigned against the bond issue if the resurfacing or reconstruction of Arlington (or any other street that is so classified) had been left out.”

To make things more interesting, two other trustees?”Candice Grace and, to a lesser extent, William Scanlon, support Shields’ position on the matter, while the other three?”John Scully, Kevin Smith and Cindy Gustafson?”favor the creation of an SSA to solve the problem. President Harold J. Wiaduck Jr., who sidestepped taking a firm position on the issue during a debate on the issue at the board’s Oct. 3 Committee of the Whole session, looks to be the deciding vote.

Before he votes, Wiaduck said he’d like to know how many other streets like Arlington Road need full reconstruction instead of just resurfacing.

“I’d personally like more information on how big the problem is,” Wiaduck said.

From 1987 to 1997, Riverside created 12 SSAs for road reconstruction throughout the village. The cost was split between the village and residents. On six occasions the village paid for 60 percent of the total cost. On the other six, property owners paid 60 percent. The average cost to property owners for the work fell between $1,100 and $5,000 and was paid off in a time period between five and seven years.

For Shields, the distinction between resurfacing and reconstruction is “hair-splitting.” He said the village should make good on its promise to do street improvements with bond proceeds.

“If the village wants to solve the street conditions in the village, especially conditions it created, it should do so without resorting to hair-splitting over whether a street needs resurfacing or reconstruction,” Shields wrote in his e-mail to Rush. “This is a village-wide problem, not a street-by-street problem.”

Worse, Shields said on Oct. 3, residents might view the creation of an SSA as a “bait and switch.”

“People might be reluctant to support a referendum [on street improvements] in the future if we allow ourselves to change the rules when faced with a factual situation we didn’t anticipate,” Shields said.

Those opposing Shields’ point of view counter that neither the village’s campaign materials for the bond issue nor the referendum question itself precluded the creation of SSA for major street reconstruction. Rather, the referendum campaign language and question were specific in stating bond proceeds would be used for “resurfacing” projects.

“I don’t recall us ever saying we were going to rebuild roads with the bond issue,” said Scully. “In my mind this was always a resurfacing program, not a reconstruction program.”

Furthermore, Gustafson said, using bond proceeds for the Arlington Road reconstruction would mean that other streets scheduled for resurfacing down the line may not get done at all.

“The whole point of the bond program was to get caught up,” Gustafson said. “If we agree to start doing total reconstruction work with village dollars that’s a big precedent. You’re changing more than just three or four projects; you’re redoing the whole thing.”

But Grace emphatically rejected that argument, saying that it was the village’s responsibility to find a solution without taxing a small number residents by creating an SSA.

“It’s ludicrous. We all use the streets,” Grace said. “If we need to fix streets, we should pay for all of them. If prior administrations have been neglectful, and we have to fix it, so be it.”

The board may take up the issue again next month at its Committee of the Whole session on Nov. 7.