The county has about 400 miles of roads to maintain and in the year 2010 the tax that has supported that maintenance is expiring. The quarter cent sales tax has been in existence since 1985 and has not been increased in all that time.
Presiding Commissioner Dr. David Cramp and Associate Commissioners Patrick Mullins and Bret Burgess have unanimously placed a measure on the ballot to renew the tax at its existing level.
“This is not a tax increase,” Cramp said, “This is a continuation of a tax. That money is dedicated to the maintenance of roads and bridges in the county and is going to enable us to maintain those existing roads.”
Cramp said the $1.6 million dollars generated by the tax is used for materials. It does not pay the salaries of full-time workers on the Road and Bridge Department. Those are paid from the General Fund.
“From a safety standpoint, I’ve talked to the superintendents of schools who travel those roads and bridges with buses and they understand the snow removal and safety of that is imperative to the students,” Cramp said. “And the mayors and administrators say as far as economic development, it’s essential to have good road structure and infrastructure. In this time of real tough times, it’s important we don’t step back. That we move forward and maintain and enhance the existing structure.”
Burgess believes a sales tax is the fairest way to support the roads. “We have a lot of consumers who come from outside the county who are using our roads to get here and purchase products,” he explained. “This gives us the dollars to maintain the roads. We also have some areas that need to be widened, and if we take away the Road improvement Tax those are not going to occur.”
Mullins also cited the safety aspect of the Road and Bridge Department’s work.
“We have 403.4 miles of county roads,” Mullins said. “This last winter storm we had, talking with Dave Dettmer the assistant foreman of the county road crews, they escorted ambulances, pulled out two or three state highway patrolmen and a number of city police and Sheriff’s deputies. They played a vital role in helping clear roads and working with Central Dispatch. The continuation of this tax is vital to those gentlemen and ladies.”
Mullins and Burgess said they each have roads in their district that particularly need improvements both from the standpoint of safety and economic development and those improvements will be impossible if the Road Improvement Tax is allowed to expire.
“This has a $2 million impact on the economy,” Cramp added, pointing out the purchase of materials for the roads makes a contribution to the economy, as do the 36 jobs in the Road and Bridge Department, even though they are paid from another fund. “There are 36 workers in the road crew to maintain 400 miles of road. And bridges, too. It is amazing we are able to do what we do.”