Pothole repairs put strain on budget

March 11, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll public works officials said yesterday they hope to begin patching county roads wrecked by winter weather as early as next month.

Residents already are asking, "What are you going to do about my road?" Public Works Director Keith R. Kirschnick told the county commissioners.

The challenge will be finding money to pay for the repairs.

The Bureau of Roads Operations chief, Benton Watson, said he needs $875,000 to begin patching.

Budget Director Steven D. Powell said he wants to find the money in the operating budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. He said he hopes to figure out how to do that by early next week.

If the county uses money from this year's budget, employees and contract workers would be able to begin work earlier and repair more roads before fall, Mr. Watson said.

Also, the county probably could get a better price from contractors who won't be as busy in the spring as they will be in July, when the next fiscal year begins and other counties begin repairing roads, he said.

Roads officials know many roads are severely damaged, but they haven't been able to do a thorough evaluation because the snowy weather has continued, Mr. Kirschnick said.

"We can't even see the roads yet to know what the extent of the problem is," he said.

The county budget is tight this year, as it has been for several years, Mr. Powell said.

But it's "critical" the county maintain its roads, he said.

Other county projects may have to be postponed to repair roads, he said.

"In the end, some choices are going to have to be made," he said.

The commissioners are in the midst of budget work sessions in which they meet with the heads of each department and agency. They must approve a fiscal 1995 budget in late May.

HTC Department and agency heads have requested $149.2 million for programs and salaries. The amount is 14.6 percent higher than the current year's $130.2 million operating budget.

Carroll revenues are expected to increase 7.1 percent next year to $139.5 million.

The commissioners also are studying capital budget requests. County department heads requested projects that would cost $67.3 million. Mr. Powell and his staff recommended the requests be trimmed to $57.2 million.

The current year's capital budget is $32.7 million.

A major part of the capital budget increase comes from a staff recommendation to build the $15 million Piney Run water treatment plant next year. The plant was scheduled to be built in fiscal 1996, but officials said the county needs the water as soon as possible.

The proposed capital budget for fiscal 1995 includes about $4 million for road improvements. In a recent survey, Carroll roads got a "D" rating on a scale of A to F, with F denoting the worst condition.

The county used to spend about $7 million a year to resurface and improve roads, Mr. Powell said. But in the past four years, since the recession hit, the county has spent about $4 million a year, he said.

Carroll needs to boost spending in the next five years to $7 million to $8 million a year to bring roads up to a "B" rating, Mr. Powell said.

In the operating budget for the Bureau of Roads Operations, Mr. Kirschnick and Mr. Watson have asked for about $3.7 million for fiscal 1995. The bureau maintains about 900 miles of roads and 127 bridges, and has 99 employees.

Mr. Watson said his request for $875,000 would help the county get a good start on patching roads.

The amount would pay for three patches measuring 12 feet by 25 feet for every mile of county roads, he said.

More work should be done, but spending $875,000 would be a start, he said.

Many roads are in bad condition, but Mr. Watson cited three of the worst. They are: 1.75 miles of Nicodemus Road off Route 27, 1.4 miles of Rupp Road outside Manchester and 2 miles of York Road in Manchester.

In a related issue, Mr. Watson said the county has spent $1.4 million for snow removal this year. Officials had budgeted $539,860.

The balance will come from a $2.4 million contingency fund for fiscal 1994.

"We can't afford to have anything else happen. We're tight," Mr. Powell said.

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