Douglas County backed a few steps away from a “pothole cliff” Thursday by directing the county manager to set up a task force, and find $1 million in the budget to divert toward the decaying roads system.
“The problem was identified 10 years ago,” County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said. “In the last year we have made the effort to start to ‘walk the talk.’ The greatest need we have today, and will have in the future, is to invest in our infrastructure.”
He credited Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer with creating the phrase “pothole cliff” to describe the county’s road system.
“Unless we begin to invest, we’re going to fall off the ‘pothole cliff’ in the near future,” Mokrohisky said.
He said the county’s pavement condition index had dropped four points in two years, to further entrench the county’s 231 miles of maintained roads in the “fair-to-poor” category.
According to Ruschmeyer, the county would have to invest $4.5 million per year just to maintain the current level.
That would not begin to address a $53 million backlog in road repairs which has nearly doubled from $30 million in 2010-11.
“The majority of complaints we get are related to roads,” Mokrohisky said.
The current funding is $450,000 per year for preventative and corrective road maintenance.
If the county maintains the status quo, the road quality will continue to deteriorate at an accelerated rate resulting in more complaints, reduced levels of service and higher costs.
The county requires a combination of funding sources to maintain the current pavement condition index of 58, which is fair bordering on poor, or to raise the level to the stated goal of 70, or satisfactory.
Last year, the board voted to shift $191,000 in property tax to the general fund for roads.
On Thursday, commissioners directed Mokrohisky to shift $1 million in general fund dollars to road maintenance as soon as possible. They also authorized development of a task force of residents to look at short- and long-term funding solutions.
“I am not in favor of raising any taxes,” said Commissioner Nancy McDermid. “I think we need to reappropriate the money that we get and put at least $1 million toward a preventative maintenance fund.
“We need a task force bent on solutions,” she said. “People willing to ask ‘what can we do to solve the problem?’ If you want to be part of the solution, come on board in the beginning.”
Commissioner Lee Bonner said it was critical each county district be represented on the task force.
“We’re not trying to solve this today,” Mokrohisky said. “You’ve given really good direction toward a $1 million general fund shift to road maintenance with the most minimal impact to services.”