Archive for Monday, February 23, 1998

TOWNSHIPS FEELING BUDGET PINCH

February 23, 1998

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With growing populations, many county townships are feeling more pressure to increase road standards while keeping up with other duties.

Running a township can be a thankless job, but somebody's got to do it.

Township leaders have to keep roads in good shape, maintain road signs and township buildings, provide fire protection and keep township land tidy.

``If I'm not doing it, nobody else is,'' said Palmyra Township trustee A.J. Barrett. ``Somebody has to.''

But more demands arising from increasing population are putting the squeeze on township budgets. Township officials are worried that soon too much money will be spent on roads and not enough on the other costs of the township.

``Every day somebody is wanting to build here,'' said Barrett, who has been a township official for 13 years. ``It's getting larger all the time. More work all the time, more gravel and more labor.''

Reports from the Douglas County Building and Zoning Office confirm that more people are moving into the rural areas of the county. Between 1986 and 1996, the number of new or moved homes in the county jumped from 146 to 308. More homes mean more curb cuts and county roads for townships to maintain.

``The problem our townships are having is trying to urbanize,'' said Douglas County Public Works Director Frank Hempen. ``With more people moving in, they're getting more and more pressure to increase maintenance.''

Palmyra and Wakarusa are the two largest townships. Their size is reflected in their budgets. Willow Springs comes in third, with Kanwaka, Lecompton, Eudora, Marion, Clinton and Grant following in order.

Budgets for the townships range from $646,660 to $177,166. Most of that is spent to maintain roads. Roadwork includes equipment, materials and man hours and is usually paid for out of road and special road funds in the budget.

The townships also maintain township halls and other buildings and pay salaries for board members and road workers. They maintain fire departments or contract with local cities for the service.

Eudora Township spent at least $161,693 of its $308,084 budget in 1997 for work on its 72.4 miles of roads. Most of the townships spend roughly two-thirds of their budgets on roads.

To lay gravel on a mile of well-drained 24-foot-wide road, a township could use 1,320 tons of gravel. At the usual price of $4 per ton, that mile will cost more than $5,000.

-- Selena Stevens' phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is selena@ljworld.com.

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