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Commissioners made right call on roadwork

May 29, 2012

We appreciate good intentions and we appreciate elected officials who are good stewards of public money. Sometimes, though, it would also be helpful if they would think a little beneath the surface. Because sometimes “savings” can wind up being costly.

To that point, we are thankful that the majority of the Washington County Commissioners brushed aside a suggestion by Commissioners President Terry Baker that would have halted highway improvements to the Robinwood Drive corridor.

Baker’s attempted roadblock came about when the commissioners learned that some needed land for the widening of Robinwood would cost the county $11 a square foot, or $134,000 total.

The land in question represents a swath of the parking lot for the College Plaza shopping center, and is needed to expand Robinwood Drive by two lanes.

“I’m recommending that we stop everything that we’re doing in that area,” Baker said at a recent commissioners’ meeting. “That’s what I’d like to see happen — (stop the projects on) Yale Drive, Robinwood Drive, and let’s come up with a good plan that’s going to address that whole area over there.”

Well, yes, except that we’ve been trying to “come up with a good plan” for the better part of two decades, now. In the ’90s, the commissioners were presented with at least 10 different plans for alleviating Robinwood congestion and wound up rejecting them all.

They did exactly what Baker is recommending now: They stopped all the proposed projects in the hope that tomorrow would bring about a better, less costly and less politically damaging solution.

Tomorrow, of course, brought no such thing.

Instead, costs escalated, and now the past-commissioners’ refusal to act is costing the county taxpayers millions of dollars. We have seen this happen on project after project after project in this county, be it a road, hospital, senior center or ballpark. We drag our feet, complaining about the cost — and apparently failing to realize that while we agonize over these decisions, the meter continues to run.

Further, interest rates are unlikely to stay this low forever, meaning that — despite all the hyperventilating about debt — this is an excellent time to be a borrower.

The road projects around the new hospital and community college are not optional. They should have been addressed 15 years ago, but seeing as how they weren’t, they must be done now. And delay will wind up costing, not saving, more and more tax money.

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