Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — County Supervisors asked to see numbers for chip seal paving on a set of secondary roads south of Riverside.
The roads — 135th and 140th street — have seen renewed calls for improvements in light of a proposed subdivision in the area, but County Engineer Jacob Thorius said the money for paving wasn’t there, necessitating contributions from nearby homeowners to get anything done in the next five years.
“This is a local road, so I have limited funds to pay for it,” he said. “There’s a 133 parcels that I think would be included in (an) assessment district, so I’ve looked at splitting it a variety of different ways.”
While costs are not exact, Thorius said his office had estimations to work with.
“We’ll need to do some surveying and designs to refine numbers, which means they could either go up or they could go down,” Thorius said. “These are budgetary numbers to work with for now, to give us something to talk about.”
As of now, the office estimates 135th Street’s total cost at $1.15 million, ($880,000 of which is paving) and 140th Street’s at $670,000 ($370,000 of which is paving) assuming the projects use concrete, rather than another surface. The non-paving costs would be constant regardless of material,
If the county can get area homeowners to form assessment districts, those districts could pay anywhere from 50% to 100% of the cost to pave the streets, depending on how negotiations go.
"Per parcel, (it’s) $8,646 and change, which equates to an annual payment of — if we did over 10 years — $864 and change,“ Thorius said of an option to have homeowners pay 100% of the cost. ”
Alternatively, the county could bear the cost of grading only on class A sections of the road, which would put it on the hook for about 10% of the project. Thorius also floated the idea of a 50-50 split in addition to Level A grading. That math would work out to a nearly 48% share for the county.
“If we do a secondary assessment district to help cover these costs, code says the minimum participation by that assessment district is 50%,” he said. “It couldn’t go much lower than what’s shown here. We can do anything, we could do 75-25, 60-40, 70-30, whatever. We could find some other combination between here, I’m just giving you a couple numbers.”
The county has previously used cost-sharing agreements for high-cost paving projects, most notably on a road to Premier 1, a Brighton business with heavy truck traffic. While that arrangement was funded largely by grant money, Thorius said the residential projects before the board were unlikely to draw third party help.
“They were expanding their business, adding jobs, so economic growth allowed the DOT to contribute some funds to that,” he said. “It wasn’t a true 50-50 split, the DOT gave us $250,000 … the residential (growth) would increase the tax base, and, you could argue, helps the local economy, but it doesn’t create economic growth the RISE program is set up for.”
While the county could cover less than its 50% maximum obligation if assessment districts are formed, Thorius said the HOA seemed open to a more clean half-and-half agreement.
“Everybody’s on board for a 50-50 split … based on conversations with the Homeowners Association board of directors,” he said. “That’s 50-50, no interest, and 10 years to pay it back.”
Still, the county engineer suggested officials consider putting more of the cost on residents.
“I’ve tried talking with a couple other counties who have done this, everything I can tell is … almost always, 100% of those improvements are on those adjoining properties,” he said. “That’s the other way to minimize the impact to the county, is put more of the cost of improvement on adjoining properties.”
While officials said they were not yet sure if the county’s obligations would be subject to interest payments, Board of Supervisors Chair Richard Young suggested adding the cost to homeowners’ annual payments at the same rate as the county.
“If we bond, and we have to borrow money, then I think they should pay interest,” he said. “I mean, (if) we’re paying interest on that money.”
Overall, Young said he favored the cost sharing option, and hoped residents in the area would agree.
“It would cost the homeowners about $2.36 a day if we (paid) nothing, talking about 135th,” he said. “On 140th it’d be $1.99 … that’s minimal cost to have a paved road, if you ask me. That’s one less coffee a day.”
Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said he was open to chip seal paving on the roads in an effort to minimize budget trade-offs elsewhere in the county.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff around the county that needs to be done with our local dollars, they could be better spent,” he said. “My thought is, if they’ve got chip seal in the subdivisions in that area for those subdivisions, that would have a lesser impact … to the ongoing maintenance of everyplace else that needs it.”
Supervisor Stan Stoops said he was open to the idea.
“Somewhere, I would like to see at least something set aside as an experiment on chip seal somewhere in this county,” he said.
Thorius disagreed, saying there was little risk of a trade off with maintenance budgets.
"We do have roads that are in need of attention, (but) those roads, we typically do not spend our local dollars, what money would go to these projects, on,“ he said. ”Those roads we would address with our farm-to-market funds, our surface transportation block grant funds, or some potential other grants.“
As a result, Thorius said chip seal roads on 135th and 140th — which have higher maintenance needs than alternatives — carried a greater risk of overstretching maintenance budgets.
“When we look at the long term costs, it’s going to impact the county even more than what doing a full blown pavement would,” he said. “Once these improvements are made, any other improvement to those (roads) is a responsibility to the county.”
The board plans to revisit the issue at its next regular meeting Sept. 20, hoping for more clarification on the possibility of paying interest and the prices of chip seal pavement.