Board debates future of county maintained road system
But setting a precedent of adding roads with no way to pay for snow plowing and periodic overlays just might be more than future county budgets can fund.
“Two hundred dollars per year in terms of gas tax that’s going to be generated based on the mileage … is far inadequate to meet with what maybe will be the future costs,” District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said at the board of supervisor’s Dec. 19 meeting.
Saying the county hasn’t addressed how to pay for roads in its 140-year history, Chapman voted against adding Cramer Ranch Road to the county maintained road system. The paved, 0.23-mile-long road begins at its intersection with Travis Lane and ends at Center Road.
The new road serves the Cramer Ranch Estates Unit 2 project, approved when the board denied neighboring residents appeal in May. It includes 11 residential lots ranging in size from 1.8 to 3.8 acres. Agriculture continues on two remaining parcels of 48 and 64 acres.
“This road does serve a public purpose,” said District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer, who requested the road be added to the county maintained system. “It’s a tie between two existing county roads, and an important tie, because Travis Lane, at times, gets flooded and the people living on Travis Lane have no secondary access.”
Cramer Ranch Road sits above the high water level, Keefer said, giving residents and emergency personnel a second way in and out. Tying two county roads together will also improve circulation, he said.
“I also agree with Lloyd,” said District 1 Supervisor, and board chairman, Bob Pyle. “And I think it’s in the best interest of the public to make this a county maintained road.”
District 5 Supervisor Jack Hanson supported adding the road to the system.
“But I think at some point in time we’re going to have to revisit the policy of accepting roads,” Hanson said, adding the board hasn’t accepted any roads, except Susanville Road, for years.
“We can’t have a policy of not taking in roads if we anticipate growth,” he said.
As an example, there are about 46 homes on less than 1.5 miles of Sage Brush Road, Hanson said, and residents pay taxes on gasoline to fund the roads they use.
Pyle said the only answer is developer impact fees, charged when homeowners buy a lot in a subdivision. He called it a growth-impact fee, which is used all over the state.
“I hate to do it, but we’re going to have to,” Pyle said.
Saying the board all but promised developer Skip Jones it would accept the road if he built it to county standards, Pyle added the board will have to look at impact fees in the future.
Because the developer brought the road up to county standards, District 4 Supervisor Brian Dahle said, “I’m kinda on the fence with that part.”
However, Dahle, who voted “hell no,” said 15 or 20 years from now when there are potholes on the road “we’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to overlay it. And it’s about $100,000 a mile today to overlay a road. So, do the math; it doesn’t fund.”
Dahle said the county will have to set up some kind of mechanism to fund future roads and Chapman agreed.
“That needs to be part of the process,” Chapman said, “regardless of how short, how vital, or the connective aspects of it.”
There will be more subdivisions in the future, Chapman said.
“They’re all going to have roads,” he said. “All those same subdivisions are going to say, ‘OK, you did it in this particular case and this clearly establishes a precedent.’ And if we don’t have a funding mechanism established for it, I can tell you right now, it’s going to be a no-win scenario.”
All the roads in District 2 are in the city of Susanville, Chapman said, and the city has to deal with them. However, he repeated an earlier suggestion that the county establish an infrastructure revitalization committee to look at how to pay for needed facilities, including roads.
Chapman suggested the committee look at the cost of building and maintaining needed facilities.
“Whether it’s a swimming pool, or a road, a park or whatever, you have to have that clearly defined,” he said. “The problem is … it’s easy to build something. We built a juvenile hall but didn’t have the money to operate it. Those are the choices we make that area easy … but it’s the board that gets left having to struggle with having to make it work and then people get unhappy with it.”
Adopting something without a plan to take care of future costs doesn’t serve the best interests of the public, Chapman said.
Keefer agreed saying the board needs to revisit the policy of accepting roads county-wide. He added the county spends a lot of money maintaining roads that serve one resident and the board did not take the opportunity to remove some of those roads from the county maintained system earlier this year.
In February, the board removed 17 on a list of 28 roads proposed for removal from the county maintained system.
“As we look at the policy, we need to look at the road system county-wide,” Keefer said. “We did not remove some of those roads from the system and I think that needs to be part of it. We’re spending money on roads that I don’t think really serve a public purpose.”
Saying, except for Chapman, supervisors live and die based on the conditions of the roads, Dahle said the county did remove dead-end roads and driveways in his district.
Dahle promised that when he is elected chairman at the board’s Tuesday, Jan 9 meeting, he will put a discussion about road policy on the board’s agenda.
“But I tell you, bringing in roads without funding is not the way to do it,” Dahle said. “Because we have a ton of those roads already out there that we can’t fund.”
Public Works Director Larry Millar said a consultant he hired will bring a study of funding options for development to the board, possibly as early as February.
The board voted 3-2, with Chapman and Dahle voting no, to adopt the resolution accepting the road into the county maintained system.
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