“Optics” is kind of a trendy word these days. It’s basically another way to describe how something looks on the surface or how it’s perceived by those on the outside looking in, even if there’s a chance the actual reality that extends beyond that perception is different.

    In actuality, “optics” is getting to be a bit overused of late. In fact, there’s a daily sports talk show on ESPN, “Around the Horn” that’s based on “competitive banter” between sportswriters from across the country, and if they utter certain words or phrases that the show’s host deems to be too trendy or clever, the competing journalists actually get docked points. “Optics” has achieved that status on Around the Horn. If someone says it while offering their take on a certain sports topic, their point total is going to drop.

    But, still, no points are at stake in this space today, so it can be said with confidence that the optics look bad on South Ash Street, which still has not yet been completely reconstructed in the wake of a water main replacement in 2017.

    The City of Crookston’s method when it comes to replacing water mains is to dig up the street, install the new main, then fill in the hole. Then, over the subsequent fall, winter and spring, the idea is that motorists repeatedly driving over the dirt surface will provide excellent compaction and a solid base in advance of the street being paved the following summer. Sounds like a solid enough theory, right?

    But it’s October, there’s snow on the ground, and South Ash Street still waits for pavement. While other road projects have taken on higher priority this year, like the frontage road in front of McDonald’s, and new projects have even been added at mid-summer, like paving Fifth Avenue South, South Ash Street, a well-traveled, primary access road into and out of the Woods Addition, remains an unpleasant driving experience, at best, for anyone who has to navigate it.

    As a result, affected residents have grown increasingly frustrated, and angry. Some who contacted the Times earlier this week said openly that they were being lied to.

    Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates engineer Rich Clauson told the Times Thursday that, with what looks to be improved weather next week, he’s hoping the contractor will finally get the “pavement wrapped up” on South Ash.

    Here’s hoping he’s right, because the optics on this one don’t look good.