Friday, June 13, 2014

Proposed road maintenance slashed


    Due to the failure in May of a proposed two-year property-tax levy, planned county road maintenance will have to be cut in half next year, the county commissioners were told early this week.
    The Road and Bridge Department is facing a funding crisis because of a decline in state and federal gas tax revenue and because it was barred by a commissioners’ resolution passed in 2007 from receiving property-tax revenue. Since then, a gap has been widening between maintenance needs to keep roads at their most cost-effective remaining service life and the funding available each year.
    In an interview, Director of Operations Char Nelson said she anticipates that the Road and Bridge Department will get $1.56 million in gas tax and some other revenue next year. During fiscal 2015 department budget hearings Monday, Nelson requested an approximately $2 million budget from the commissioners. She said even that budget is less than enough to get roads up to cost-effective service lives.
    Nelson said a plan to do crack repair on 58 miles of paved roads and chip sealing on 30 miles in fiscal 2015 has been reduced to crack repair on 29 miles and chip sealing on 15 miles to stay within the department’s requested $2 million budget.
    “It’s a meager budget,” she said.
    Nelson said roads would continue to deteriorate at this rate of funding.
    She said the department will give priority to roads in most need of repair rather than attending to repair demands based on public or political pressure.
    Road and Bridge Manager Tom Duffy told the commissioners that some local roads are in desperate need of work. Those include Croy Creek Road, which has an average daily traffic count of 950 vehicles a day, and Warm Springs Road, which has an average daily traffic count in the summer of 850 vehicles.
    In an interview, Nelson said the Warm Springs Road work is part of a planned seven-year project with the Forest Service.
    “The question will be, [without levy funding] will we be able to carry out the seven-year plan, and I don’t know the answer to that,” she said.
    Nelson told the commissioners that 2015 budget items include staff training and maintaining an aging equipment fleet.
    “Our 22-year-old fleet is tough to maintain and spare parts are not readily available,” she said.
    The commissioners have yet to decide how the county would fund the gap between the department’s expected revenue and its requested budget.

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