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Tahoe’s roads worst in county, department says

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

Tahoe Basin’s county-maintained roads are the worst of the 1,047 miles that are in need of repairs, according to the El Dorado County Transportation Department.

Tom Celio, deputy director of maintenance, said it would cost the county $4 million dollars each year for several years to bring county roads up to standard. Fifty-nine percent of Tahoe Basin roads fall below the critical mark. He said the county would need to spend $1 million annually just on the Tahoe roads to see a difference.

Celio said it is hard for the transportation department to fund overlays and large road repairs because of the large chunk of the budget the county dedicates to snow removal, line painting, pothole patching and other road maintenance.



Out of the $8.7 million 2000-01 transportation budget, Celio said only $1 million will go to fund overlays and major repairs.

“These road repair problems are common to rural counties,” he said. “But the longer we wait (to fund road repairs), the more exponentially it’s going to cost us in the long run.”




Supervisor Ray Nutting said he was disappointed at Tuesday’s board meeting when the other supervisors reaffirmed their opposition to Measure H, which would fund repairs to the county’s dilapidated roads.

Measure H, filed by the Builders’ Exchange, requests half of Vehicle Registration Fees be directed to road maintenance.

“I believe the initiative should have gone forward,” Nutting said. “I’m not voting against the process of democracy.”

Nutting said he was even more dismayed that the board pitted the Builders’ Exchange against emergency service departments and claimed Measure H would pull from police and fire budgets.

“(The public) was given bad information,” Nutting said about the Chief Administrative Officer’s presentation Tuesday, which claimed Measure H would pull $4 million of county discretionary funds, half of which support the Sheriff and other law and justice programs. “All this initiative would do is force the Board of Supervisors to allocate more of the growth of revenue toward roads. It’s lunacy to say our roads will cost other departments.”

Nutting said if the board does not fix roads soon, county residents will have to pay even more to repair them in the future and emergency service departments will definitely feel the effect.

“For every dollar you put in now you save more later,” Nutting said. “Eight years from now it’s going to cost four to 10 times as much to save the roads.”

Mike Hanford, county chief administrative officer, said the emergency service department cuts he presented were based on a worst case scenario and departments would not be affected as much during economic prosperity. However, Hanford said he was concerned for future recessions or when the state increases Vehicle Registration Fees, which means Measure H would pull more money from the general fund.

Nutting disagreed with Hanford and said passing Measure H would not hurt other county departments regardless of the economy.

“During the budget crisis of 1993 no deputies were laid off,” he said. “And that will not happen in the future.”

Art Marinaccio, member of the Taxpayers’ Association, said the debate to fund roads has nothing to do with budget cuts but with the Board of Supervisors’ fear of allowing the public to decide how money should be spent.

“Road repair has always been a big problem in El Dorado County,” Marinaccio said. “It has been a political football for years.”

Marinaccio served on a committee that was put together almost three years ago to come up with ways to fund road improvements. He said the committee came up with a way that would allocate half of a 2 percent tax on automobiles to road maintenance.

“The people who worked on the committee thought (the proposal) was a no-brainer,” he said. “But the Board of Supervisors said, ‘We need more discretion on it.’ And everybody who worked on the committee said forget it.”

Marinaccio said Tuesday’s opposition to Measure H from the board and emergency service departments was typical in the fight to fund road repair.

“(Tuesday’s meeting) was a typical government reaction to end this measure,” Marinaccio said. “The board thought we’ll just say it threatens police and fire and (the Exchange) will go away.

“I’m just upset (the board) is not dealing with the problem and they’re getting upset with the people who are trying to fix it,” Marinaccio added. “The roads have to be addressed.”

The Board of Supervisors tried to stop the public’s input in deciding how general fund money should be spent by filing a lawsuit last week, which would stop Measure H from going to the November ballot. The lawsuit names the Builders’ Exchange and Registrar of Voters Michele MacIntyre as defendants. If the county wins the lawsuit, the decision could set a precedent banning any initiative that directs general funds. The case will be heard by Judge Richard Haugnar in South Lake Tahoe on Aug. 30.


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