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County might cut back road repairs

March 10, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County might not be able to complete unscheduled road patching and other repairs next fiscal year because of a drop in highway user revenue, county highway department director Edwin Plank said.

With vehicle and fuel sales down statewide, the county is expecting a drop of almost 12 percent in tax and titling revenues, which are used to fund highway projects, Plank said.

To compensate, Plank proposed that the county eliminate its budget for miscellaneous road projects that arise during the year, such as pothole repairs or drain pipe replacements requested by residents. Last year, the county budgeted $280,000 for those types of projects.

The county would still adjust its budget to respond to issues that pose safety concerns, Plank said.

Other highway budget reductions would include a 19 percent cut in operating funds, a 34 percent cut in storm damage repair funds, and small reductions in the snow removal and traffic control budgets.

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The changes are being considered for the fiscal year 2010 budget, which begins July 1.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire expressed concern about emptying the budget for miscellaneous road projects.

"For me, to start at zero just doesn't seem practical," Aleshire said, pointing out that other areas of the budget would also be at bare-bones levels.

Highway user revenues are expected to drop more than $1 million, to $7.9 million in fiscal year 2010, Plank said.

Highway user revenues are the only source of funding that can be used for highway maintenance, said Washington County Public Works Director Joseph Kroboth.

Kroboth said he would like to see that policy changed so the county could look at more innovative ways to fund highway maintenance as the economy cuts away at revenues.

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