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The long and winding road

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Campbell County has a road problem and there’s no easy solution.

Since I began covering the county commission in 2007 there has been an almost continuous stream of residents at the meetings imploring the board to do something about the condition of their roads.

It didn’t take me long to figure out we have a bunch of roads and not much money to fix them.

In fact, at last report Dennis Potter, road superintendent, said there are 700 miles of roads in our county and his budget will allow him to pave about 10 miles a year. Now I’m no math whiz but that puts each mile on a 70-year rotation for paving. In my non-professional opinion that seems like a disaster in the making. I mean really, can any road last for 70 years.

So what is the answer?

Well, I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure it is not picking and choosing which roads get paved based on which residents can clamor the loudest at a commission meeting and demand something be done.

On Monday night the commission voted 10-3 in favor of borrowing, yes, I said borrowing, $205,000 to tar and chip Ivydale Road.

I realize my opinion on this subject may be unpopular, especially with the residents of Ivydale Road, but after observing the debate on this subject two weeks in a row I just think there has to be a better way.

First of all, is it really smart to borrow money to tar and chip, not pave, a road? After hearing lengthy discussion from several sides on the subject I never heard anyone give a definitive answer to the question of just how long a tar and chip road will last.

And then there’s the other problem voting yes to the Ivydale Road repairs creates-what happens the next time a contingency comes to the commission asking for help with their road?

Before anybody says, “I bet she’s never even been on that road” I can assure you that I have. I drove all 4.5 miles of it on Monday afternoon to see for myself what all the talk was about. I’m not going to lie the condition of the road is less than ideal. Is it worse than any other road in the county? I doubt it. Does it need to be fixed? Absolutely!

I know the people in that area have argued they pay taxes just like everyone else and this entitles them to a good road. But in these tough economic times does it really?

According to information obtained from the property assessor’s office, there are 22 dwellings located on this road that account for $5,707 in property taxes annually. With tax collections like that it would take about 35 years to repay the $205,000 debt. I know that’s not how the numbers really work, but it helps make my point and the point that Potter has repeatedly tried to make to commissioners and constituents alike. The bulk of the paving must be done where the bulk of the people are. And sometimes this happens at the expense of the mountain roads.

How can we get more paving done?

We’re going to have to pay for it. There’s no such thing as a free lunch or road for that matter. And unless we are willing to bite the bullet and accept the fact that a property tax increase is likely the only thing that will provide some relief we better strap on our seatbelts because a lot more of us may be in for a bumpy ride.