Enjoying the use of paved roads in the Hesper Heights area southeast of Eudora just may end up costing neighbors more than they had expected.
The roads — sections of North 1100, East 2300 and North 1137 roads — had been paved several years ago, at the request of 42 property owners who agreed to pay for the work and finance its upkeep.
Now, according to county officials, the money collected from residents to keep the roads clear and smooth isn’t keeping pace with the costs incurred.
“We’re needing to take a hard look at our assessments,” said Keith Browning, county engineer and director of public works. “We have not been bringing in as much as we’ve been spending out there.”
This year, for example, each participating property owner has been charged $242 to cover maintenance expenses for the blacktop roads. Because the area’s township no longer needs to care for the gravel roads, the township kicks in $19,008.
That’s a total of $29,174 for the year, Browning said. And the county expects expenses similar to last year, when the total cost hit $59,732.
The cost could be even higher.
“We’re anticipating quite a bit of work this year,” Browning said, citing needs for pavement patching.
Next year, he said, the county will be expected to put down a new layer of chip seal, which would cost about $56,000.
Browning figures the road assessments should rise to about $688 per property owner — or another $446, on top of the current $242 — to cover the county’s expenses.
No decisions have been made. Browning plans to meet with leaders of the improvement district to discuss possibilities.
“Road maintenance is expensive,” Browning said.
District member Rod Croucher figures the county could decide to do less maintenance on the roads, to keep costs down.
But he’s confident that spending money to get the roads paved — and therefore prevent dust from covering his cars, coating his porch and hampering his breathing — remains an excellent investment, even at hundreds of dollars per year.
“That’s the best $1,000 I’ve ever spent,” Croucher said of his estimated yearly payments that include paying down debt on the original $225,000 of construction. “It’ll get cheaper eventually.”