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Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Road maintenance plans to be looked at

April 4, 2007

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Douglas County commissioners will review alternatives for maintaining secondary county roads during their meeting tonight.

In Douglas County, secondary roads - generally gravel roads - are maintained by the townships under the auspices of township boards. There are 34 other Kansas counties that use the same road-maintenance system. But other counties perform all road maintenance under a "unit road system."

And that appeals to Commission Chairman Bob Johnson.

"I'm in favor of having one standard for the people of Douglas County," Johnson said.

A total of 65 Kansas counties use the unit road system. All county taxpayers finance that system. So before Douglas County could switch to this system, commissioners would have to pass a resolution, which countywide voters would have to approve.

Another option is the "rural highway system," under which a county handles road maintenance. But only taxpayers in unincorporated areas finance it. Moving to that system requires an election just in unincorporated areas. Only Leavenworth County has this system.

Under the existing Douglas County system, funds for secondary road maintenance come from each township. The road maintenance mill levy in the nine townships varies widely - from about 8 mills in Grant Township to nearly 27 mills in Marion Township, according to County Administrator Craig Weinaug. The differences are based on types of roads, population density, maintenance levels and disparities in tax bases.

If the county were to take over all road maintenance, it probably would pay more attention to engineering standards and practices, the county administrator said. Meanwhile, the townships probably rely more on common sense, Weinaug said.

"There's benefits to both," he said.

The county likely would spend more money on roads with higher traffic counts. In the short run at least, there would probably not be any improvement in road maintenance if the county were to take that over, Weinaug said.

"We're not saying we can do a better job than the townships," he said.

Johnson said he knows a lot of people prefer that townships maintain their own roads, but he thinks alternative systems should be examined.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today in the Douglas CountyCourthouse, 1100 Mass.

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