An annual $1 million paving program over each of the past four years is leading to less pothole patchwork this winter, Pickerington officials said.

According to Pickerington service director Ed Drobina, city crews patched 829 potholes between Jan. 22 and March 5.

That might sound like a lot, but Drobina said the patchwork has been limited this year because since 2015, the city has renewed its focus on repaving and reconstructing local roadways. He said he did not have figures for the number of potholes repaied in previous years.

"Presently, we don't have a lot (of potholes) on our heavily traveled roadways," he said. "Our bad roadways have been paved.

"Some of our roads, like (state Route) 256, used to be really bad," Drobina said. "The annual paving program has really helped out."

Pickerington City Manager Bill Vance said the city's commitment to a street-paving project is important because it's improving roadway safety and ultimately reducing the number of man hours and annual patchwork city crews must do.

He said the $1 million annual repair investment "was a goal of Mayor (Lee) Gray coming into office. "He's worked with (Pickerington City) Council the last three years to make it happen, and it's going to happen again this year."

In addition to the city's paving investments, city officials successfully obtained approximately $5 million in grants from state and regional sources for the $8.1 million reconstruction of Route 256. That project was completed in spring 2016.

The city also has lined up about $10 million in grants for the estimated $13.5 million reconstruction of Refugee Road that's slated to begin by September.

The new roadways lead to fewer potholes and patchwork that is necessitated when freezing conditions "pop" pavement surfaces, Vance and Drobina said.

"(Route) 256 was like a war zone," Vance said. "It looked like a battlefield before the improvements.

"Now, it's one of the finest thoroughfares in the Columbus region. After the $10 million grant on Refugee Road, that's $15 million in grants the city has successfully pursued since 2010."

Drobina conceded Lockville and Refugee roads, as well as Center Street, have had more potholes than other heavily traveled Pickerington streets.

But he said Refugee is in line for improvements that should help alleviate similar issues after the widening project is completed.

From Jan. 22 to March 5, he said the city has spent 230.5 man hours patching potholes, but that it's only exhausted $1,753 worth of "cold patch" supplies the city uses to repair the damage.

"We know where the problem areas are," Drobina said. "We go out, primarily on Fridays to patch, and then we go back and check on Mondays.

"Sometimes people call them in, but we drive around and see them."

Vance said Pickerington hasn't increased taxes since 2000, when a police levy was approved.

He said the ability to increase investments in infrastructure maintenance and reconstruction has been through conscious decisions by city leaders and through efforts to grow the local tax base through jobs.

"All of that money has come from a successful economic development plan and the city's ability to support new investment plans and create new jobs," Vance said.

"When I first started working with the city it was hard to scrape up a couple hundred thousand dollars for street paving. Now we're on our fourth year of a $1 million (a year) program."