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The asphalt bungle

May 04, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Phyllis Dofflemyer takes her time when driving on Maugansville Road, checks to make sure nothing's coming and then drives down the middle of the road to dodge the potholes.

Dofflemyer, a resident of Maugansville Road for more than 50 years, said the edges of the road are lined with potholes the size of basketballs. She estimates the holes are 2 to 4 inches deep.

"You just try to avoid them," she said.

The potholes are an inconvenience, and Dofflemyer said she thinks Washington County will get around to fixing them.

Or maybe not.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer said the county is facing a "severe crisis" over the condition of its roads and not enough money to repair them.

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A decrease in state funding over the last few years has forced the county to put off fixing many roads, he said.

As a result, roads from one end of the county to the other, particularly in rural areas, are breaking up and turning to rubble, Rohrer said.

Combined with the funding cuts, Rohrer said the county is "being strip-developed to death," and as those homes are built it is taking a toll on the county's rural roads.

Rohrer said he had been trying to warn state officials of what would happen without the appropriate money for repairs.

"You can't keep neglecting the systemics and not expect to pay a heavy price for it," Rohrer said. "And now, payday has arrived."

It is projected that Washington County will receive an increase in state Highway User Revenues (HURs) for its roads budget in fiscal year 2005, but Rohrer said it's not enough to recover from cuts in previous years.

HURs are generated through gasoline and motor vehicle taxes, and municipalities are given a portion of that revenue.

That money funds the county's Highway Department budget, Rohrer said.

In fiscal year 2002, the county received $7.7 million in HURs, but that amount was cut to $6.9 million in fiscal year 2003, according to the county's budget.

The county took another hit from the state in fiscal year 2004, when its HURs were cut to $5 million.

The state is expected to increase the county's allocation to $5.5 million in fiscal year 2005, which begins on July 1.

Because of the previous cuts, Rohrer said Washington County will have to put off major repairs to rural roads and focus on fixing roads in the Urban Growth Area.

The Urban Growth Area is an area where growth is encouraged. It is mainly located around the City of Hagerstown.

If the county doesn't fix the roads in the growth area now, Rohrer said they'll deteriorate to the condition of many rural roads.

The only option for many of the rural roads is to tear them up and replace them, he said.

"We've already reached that point on our rural roads," Rohrer said. "We have some very serious problems out there."

County Commissioner John C. Munson said fixing the roads should be one of the county's top priorities.

"We got to come up with the money somewhere," Munson said. "I think the roads are more important than the airport (runway) being extended, and I think the majority of the public feels the same way."

He said the poor condition of roads can damage cars.

"People don't want their cars knocked out of line all the time," Munson said.

Munson said many of the county's roads need to be replaced, because patching them is a temporary fix.

"It's a waste of money," he said.

Neil Fales, who lives on Mount Briar Road south of Boonsboro said he travels Chestnut Grove Road in southern Washington County each day to see his grandson.

"It's a terrible, lousy mess," Fales, 72, said. "I wouldn't go down it for anybody but him."

Fales said he thought road repairs should be a top county priority.

"I just think it's kind of defrauding the taxpayers to not work on their roads," he said.

He said he didn't think that the county lacks the money to make the necessary repairs.

"Sure, they say that, but they can extend the runway for a handful of people ...," Fales said. "I wish they'd put that runway down through here, and then we'd have something smooth to ride on."

Fales said he's "going to campaign dearly" against the county commissioners and elected state officials who he thinks aren't doing what they should to fix the roads.

"These guys are pulling somebody's legs, and it's every taxpayer who lives down here in the county," Fales said. "I just think we're getting short-changed. We used to have good roads. Gee whiz, I used to brag about them."

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