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Webster County says communities must pay for road services

By Staff | Jan 16, 2010

Webster County maintenance of farm-to-market roads in 12 communities may change.

In an effort to make fee-for-service more equitable, County Engineer Randy Will is asking the board of supervisors to take two actions: amend a 28E agreement for eight towns with populations less than 500 and negotiate payments for four towns with populations of more than 500.

Currently, the county maintains farm-to-market road extensions for Otho, Badger, Dayton and Gowrie.

With populations larger than 500, the county has no jurisdiction on roads inside the corporate limits, but farm-to-market roads do go through those towns.

“We take care of those farm-to-market road extensions, but the road use tax funds that pay for that service goes directly to the cities,” Will said. “I think we should have discussions about payment for the service we provide them.”

The road tax use reimbursed to towns by the state for farm-to-market roads is $86.50 per capita regardless of road mileage.

According to Randy Danielson, the Dayton City Clerk, no one from the county has approached him about the subject.

“There’s only a couple of blocks of farm-to-market roads in Dayton, and our road use tax funds are tight as it is,” Danielson said.

For the other eight communities whose populations are less than 500, the county has had jurisdiction over the farm-to-market extensions since 2004.

“Because we received jurisdiction over the routes, we received road use tax money that goes with those roads,” Will said.

The county receives $46,000 from the state.

“Like other counties we entered into a 28E agreement with the eight towns – Lehigh, Moorland, Clare, Callender, Farnhamville, Duncombe, Harcourt and Vincent – which says we will take care of the main 22 feet of those farm-to-market roads in the communities if the towns will take care of anything outside that 22 feet and we would reimburse them quarterly,” Will said.

The $46,000 – expected to rise to $48,000 next year – is distributed among the communities according to their mileage.

In January, Will asked the board to amend the contract between the county and the eight smaller communities.

Letters were sent to the towns explaining the change that same month.

“I think we should change the reimbursement for the rural towns from 100 percent to 50 percent,” Will said. “To keep things equitable, we should then require the four incorporated communities to transfer 50 percent of their road use tax funds to the county.”

The board made a motion to amend the contracts, but never took formal action.

Sharon Gross, the city clerk of Clare, said she had been notified about the possible changes, but thought they had been dismissed.

“Most of our roads are farm-to-market roads,” Gross said. “If the county took away 50 percent of the reimbusment funds, we probably wouldn’t have enough for snow removal.”

Since the board is discussing not transferring $150,000 from the general basic fund to the secondary road department – although local option sales tax dollars will contribute around $800,000 to the department, according to county auditor Carol Messerly – Will is strongly encouraging the board to take action.

“Instead of giving back $48,000, we’d return $24,000 and keep $24,000,” Will said. “Over 10 years that’s $240,000. I think this is more equitable because we have responsibilities and expenses such as pavement repairs, pavement markings and removing snow from those routes.”

Will said funds the county reimburses to the eight communities is to be used for taking care of the roads, but there is no oversight to ensure that is what the money is spent on rather than filling holes in budgets.

“I think it’s a fairness issue. I suggest we change this even though it will be unpopular,” Will said. “When there are four communities that receive money directly, it puts the county at a disadvantage.”

The board will take action on each of these issues Jan. 5.

Contact Lindsey Mutchler at (515) 573-2141 or lindsey@messengernews.net

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