OUR VOICE: Don’t give roadwork priority to those with money

Farm Forum

Brown County Commissioners have broached the idea of letting townships and residents pay into a fund to get some county road projects completed.

It’s just conversation at this point and a great one to have.

But letting a small number of people with money dictate what projects take precedence on the calendar is not a direction the county should go. Here’s why.

County road repairs are already funded by taxpayers. We are all paying into the care and upkeep of these expanses of pavement. What this idea does is ask people to pay more for priority, as though we aren’t already being taxed.

Call it a donation or contribution, but the bottom line is that citizens would be paying the government for basic services that tax dollars are already scheduled to cover.

The county also needs to make hard decisions about which projects can be done first, and the desires of townships or residents aren’t always in line with that.

Planning roadwork is no easy feat. Planners have to contend with money but also the time a project takes, the pressing need, the availability of labor and material, the length of the construction season, government regulations and more. While residents or townships might see a need on their road — don’t we all? — that need should not necessarily supersede the research and collective wisdom/vision of our elected and government officials.

All of a sudden, the county could find itself spending time and resources on very low priority corrections for the few.

Most importantly, letting a small number contribute to have their projects given first priority is the ultimate example of “money talks” and the rest of us walk — likely because we don’t have the dollars to make our roads drivable.

The wishes of a handful of people with money would be given special attention over the needs of others who can’t afford to be given consideration. The plan could also create resentment among neighbors who don’t all contribute to road projects at the same financial levels, or who see their construction work rejected because one resident won’t chip in to move it to the front of the line.

The city of Aberdeen does have a similar plan for alleys. If neighbors care to chip in, the city will schedule their alleys to upgrade from gravel to pavement. The difference here is that the city is not, by design, upgrading or improving those alleys, so any resident contribution is for work that wouldn’t otherwise be done.

As far as country roads are concerned, we could see this plan working if the county had two separate crews: one that stays on schedule for planned road fixes, the other working on the contributors’ roads according to county and state code. Another way this could work would be if the residents more fully funded their own projects in sequence for the season, so other county money could go to finish other pressing projects. This way, their work would be done, and no one would be left out.

Roads are a necessity, essential for life and business, but a great pain to maintain. We hope the county keeps looking for creative solutions.

— American News editorial board