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County receives key road data

Preliminary estimates and recommended priority lists for work on Archuleta County roads were delivered to the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners during a Wednesday midday work session with Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH) consultant John Simmer.

The plan, however, is still subject to priorities set by the BoCC before, and after, a more specific, five-year plan is created.

In presenting the information, Simmer said 337.69 road miles are now included in the information (with a road condition index), with 20.74 miles (6 percent) considered to be in “excellent” condition, 56.14 miles (17 percent) in “good” condition, 119.27 miles (35 percent) in “fair” condition, 66.12 miles (20 percent) in “poor” condition, and 75.42 (22 percent) in “failed” condition.

“You’d be hard pressed to make a mistake,” Simmer said of the possibilities of where the BoCC could direct county funds. “I don’t think you can spend your money wrong.”

Simmer gave each commissioner a package of four spreadsheets of recommended priorities at the meeting — one for asphalt reconstruction, one for asphalt chip sealing, one for asphalt crack sealing and one for gravel road reconstruction.

Simmer explained that not all of the county’s road miles were included in the spreadsheets because some roads currently fall into a “no maintenance required” category (for example, the roads that were just chip sealed and do not need attention for three years). Simmer said about 40 to 50 miles fall into the no maintenance required category.

In the asphalt reconstruction spreadsheet, the section of County Road 600 (Piedra Road) from Ace Court to the point where the road becomes a U.S. Forest Service road topped the list, with an estimated cost of over $5.6 million.

“Surprise,” Lucero joked.

“I hope that was a facetious statement,” Simmer joked in return.

Second on the asphalt reconstruction list is Lake Forest Circle, with an estimated cost of over $2 million.

The third project on the list is another portion of Piedra Road.

The cumulative funding total proposed in the asphalt reconstruction list lands at more than $18.7 million.

On the chip sealing list, the portion of Piedra Road from U.S. 160 to Solomon Drive topped the list, with an estimated cost of $3,296. The second priority is the same road, from Solomon Drive to Ace Court, at an estimated cost of $6,292.

A cumulative total for the chip sealing work recommended nears $787,000.

A noticeably shorter asphalt crack sealing list shows Park Avenue as the highest priority, with an estimated cost nearing $500. A total for the crack sealing list is estimated at just over $3,000.

The recommended gravel road reconstruction list comes in at an estimated total of almost $20 million, with the top three projects listed as three sections of County Road 700 (Cat Creek Road), with a cumulative estimate for the three sections landing at almost $2.68 million.

At the meeting, Simmer also informed the commissioners that, looking in general terms at the data, no sections or roads look to need higher priority due to hazard or accident concerns based on information provided by the Colorado State Patrol.

The top four roads based on the number of accidents, however, are Trujillo and Piedra Roads, North Pagosa Boulevard and Park Avenue.

Simmer said a plan, then, would boil down to the amount of funding anticipated for each year, noting that other priorities may change the order of the lists or the order in which the county completes the projects listed.

County Administrator Greg Schulte pointed out to the commissioners that a key factor in determining the amount of funding available for the plan is a decision by the commissioners concerning the amount spent in 2012 on magnesium chloride applications.

Schulte said that, without funding from a successful Ballot Issue 1A, Archuleta County can currently expect to have $875,000 available to spend on road projects in 2012, but said magnesium chloride would fall under that funding, and that the applications normally amount to about $500,000, potentially leaving about $375,000 for other projects.

Public Works Director Ken Feyen said about 220 miles of primary roads normally have magnesium chloride applied between the county’s fall and spring applications, a practice underway for about four years.

Simmer then stated that the BoCC would need to make some assumptions on funding in order for a five-year plan to be formed, asking if the commissioners would want the $875,000 plan or the plan including the $2.26 million in revenues estimated given a successful ballot issue vote.

Commissioner Clifford Lucero said he thought it would be irresponsible to not have both, with Commissioner Michael Whiting agreeing that both scenarios should be mapped out in advance.

Audience member J.R. Ford questioned the use of expending the effort to obtain both scenarios when county staff would know the outcome of the election in three weeks.

Schulte noted the validity of Ford’s point, adding that, in an ideal world, the plan would have been available prior to the election and posing a question of what the “relative value” might be of obtaining both scenarios.

“Certainly, the more money we have, the more we can do,” Schulte said.

Whiting suggested that the plans may give constituents a better idea of the process and the nature of the problem.

“This is a tool that’s long overdue for how we pull the trigger on roads,” Whiting added.

Other public discussion at the work session centered on the funding breakdown within Road and Bridge and if there is, in fact, more than $875,000 available for road projects.

Schulte pointed out that the fund also covers labor costs, equipment costs, road maintenance (such as plowing), debt service and more, leaving about $875,000 — a fact contended by some audience members.

Audience member Glenn Walsh also suggested that the county restore mill levy levels directed toward Road and Bridge to pre-1A numbers.

When 1A passed in 2006, the county’s overall mill levy dropped from more than 21 mills to the current level of just over 18 mills. The drop in mills, then, was taken from Road and Bridge in order to continue current levels for other mandated county services because 1A funds were directed toward Road and Bridge.

Ford also suggested that subdivision roads be handed over to the appropriate subdivision for maintenance — a statement Commissioner Steve Wadley agreed with, pushing the formation of metro and special districts.

Audience member Bill Hudson expressed concern that further priority by the BoCC may take on the appearance of the same pick-and-choose method for road work that currently exists and that a firm plan should exist.

Schulte pointed out that the sitting commissioners will always have the ability to select projects for any given year, noting that projects may not be able to be done due to funding concerns or a change in priorities, adding that the road plan would have to be updated on an annual basis.

Ford suggested that the BoCC commit in some way to taxpayers that they will not spend disproportionate amounts of funds in any one category.

No plans for the immediate future were made at the meeting, but questions on the docket to be dealt with are the intended expenditure on magnesium chloride in 2012, potential funding information for the next five years, and further prioritization needed to identify projects.

randi@pagosasun.com

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