Chip and seal was right call
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer
Harrison County Highway Dept. officials and county leaders made the right call to abandon the chip-and-seal road improvement method earlier this year. But, they also made the right call last year to go to less expensive road improvement methods, even one so unpopular as chip and seal.
How can they be right on both fronts?
For that answer, we have to go back to when and why the chip-and-seal method was decided to be implemented last year.
At that point, the highway officials had no choice but to make changes because of the financial shape of the department. It was done in an effort to reduce spending and avoid the depletion of the department’s savings because of a continual shortfall in the motor-vehicle highway fund, including as much as $400,000 in 2008. If the highway department continued operating the same way, its savings fund would have been depleted in a hurry.
When the county began receiving riverboat gaming funds 15 years ago, it immediately began paving miles and miles of county roads each year. Last year, when a new board of commissioners was faced with a financial black hole, it decided to attempt to turn it around. The MVH fund was on pace to spend $500,000 more than revenue in 2013. While the cost of asphalt continues to rise, the amount of revenue from the riverboat is capped and never changes.
So, the department began implementing chip and seal and fog seal rejuvenates to county roads, along with paving, to help reduce spending.
But county residents spoke up in large numbers and said they were unhappy with the chipped and sealed roads. Even after several attempts to explain the reasoning behind chip and seal, the complaints became so numerous and overwhelming that the department and county officials again found themselves in a situation where they had no choice but to act.
If the people of this county don’t want chip and seal, it shouldn’t be forced on them. After all, it is their county. But, there may come a time when their paved road has deteriorated to a point worse than a chipped and sealed road, and the department may lack the funds to repair it. That’s the kind of situation officials were trying to avoid when implementing the cost-effective method.
Hopefully, the highway department and county as a whole has saved enough money elsewhere to minimize those situations.
The highway department restructured itself and saved money by not filling a few positions that became vacant. It also continues to implement the fog seal rejuvenates on roads that also saves quite a bit of money. So, the overspending has been addressed to an extent, even without implementing chip and seal. Now, it’s just a race between deteriorating asphalt roads and the funds to repair them. But at least now residents don’t have to wonder if the road at the end of their driveway will be chipped and sealed any time soon.