Douglas County explores means to improve ways |

Douglas County explores means to improve ways

Kurt Hildebrand
Shannon Litz / R-C file photoThis 2011 crack in Waterloo Lane between Centerville and Highway 88 hasn't become smaller over the past two years.

Douglas County is standing on the edge of a $165 million pothole, according to a report scheduled to go before commissioners Thursday.

Officials will be pitching a means to pay to fill that pothole.

The amount is the worth of the county’s roads, its largest fixed asset.

County engineers say that its roads are right on the edge of the pothole cliff, representing the point at which the cost of repairing roads begins to rapidly increase.

According to a report going to county commissioners, maintaining county roads at their current condition will require $4.5 million a year. Right now the county is paying $450,000 a year, which doesn’t include a backlog of $30 million in repairs that have been deferred from prior years.

Most of the county’s roads are hitting the age of 15 without major maintenance, after which it will all be downhill.

“Funding road construction has always been a problem in Douglas County,” county road engineers noted.

Last year’s priority-based budgeting project, which solicited online participation, revealed that a quarter of those responding favored providing a reliable well-maintained infrastructure. The state of county roads have prompted complaints from residents, including a November front-page story in The Record-Courier about the state of county maintained roads at Topaz Lake.

A menu of taxing options is being presented to commissioners on Thursday along with the annual report on the transportation plan.

Among those options are an increase in the utility operator fee, taking the gas tax to 9 cents a gallon (an option that failed to win support in 2011), or increasing the sales tax, according to a report prepared by Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer.

Every percent of the operator fee on natural gas, electricity and telecommunications would raise $800,000 a year, Ruschmeyer said. The nickel gas tax would raise $900,000 a year. A .25 percent infrastructure sales tax would raise $1.3 million a year and a half-cent sales tax increase for public transit and road maintenance would raise $2.6 million, but would require a public vote. The three options county commissioners are authorized to raise on their own would still be $1 million short of the amount Ruschmeyer said is needed to maintain roads in their current condition.

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