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County will review 5-year transit plan

by Jeff Munson

Douglas County commissioners will start looking Thursday at ways to do $9 million worth of work on a $3 million budget.

The commission will hear its annual update on the county’s five-year transportation plan.

With limited funding options and county roads that are always in need of repair, Commissioner Steve Weissinger says now is the time to discuss a future 5-cent gas tax.

“We have an issue in Douglas County that will not go away,” Weissinger said. “As county commissioners we cannot dodge issues. We’ve been good about taking on problems in the past and now I think the time has come to have an open dialogue on this.”

The road to better roads won’t be smooth, Weissinger predicts. Douglas County voters soundly rejected a sales tax for open space protection last November even though the measure generated a lot of passion.

But street repairs and road overlays aren’t as interesting to voters, he said.

“It’s hard for people to get excited about something like this,” Weissinger said. “That’s why we need to devise a plan that shows how everyone benefits.”

The issue has gone before voters before. In 1993, Douglas commissioners levied an optional 5-cent gas tax for funding roads and road maintenance. But voters repealed the tax, which was expected to generate about $1 million for road projects annually.

Weissinger believes the time is right to form an exploratory committee to put the tax back on the table.

Getting outside support from general improvement districts in the county may be an option. Weissinger believes a comprehensive, long-term transportation plan that incorporates support from the improvement districts would have a better chance at gaining voter approval.

“It may not be a pretty issue, but we need to bring it forward, get everyone involved, and then take it to the communities,” he said. “Everyone drives a car, and everyone uses roads to get from point A to point B.”

What: Douglas County Board of Commissioners meeting

When: March 1, 1 p.m.

Where: Courtroom of the Douglas County Administrative Building, 1616 Eighth Street, Minden