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Roads: To mill or not to mill

Staff Writer

Affected residents made themselves clear during a work session with Archuleta County last week: Don’t mill up our roads.

The work session was held July 10, allowing the Board of County Commissioners to receive comment from residents along Masters Circle, Pines Drive, Enchanted Place, Fiesta Place, Carefree Place and Dayspring Place about the possibility of milling up the existing pavement on the roads and replacing the pavement with gravel.

The work session began with a presentation by administrative assistant Annette DeGraaf. That presentation included basic information about the Archuleta County road system, types of roads, road funding, and costs to repair and maintain roads.

Following the presentation, the work session was open for comment from citizens.

The presentation

According to the presentation, Archuleta County has 327 miles of roadway, 27 bridges, an estimated 1,300 culverts and other drainage structures, 500 miles of open drainage ditches, numerous cattle guards and an estimated 2,000 traffic control devices.

Of the 327 miles of roads, 222 miles are primary roads and 105 miles are secondary roads. Of the 327 miles of roads in the county, 44 miles are paved, which means 283 miles are gravel roads.

Paving all roads in Archuleta County would cost $283 million, not including additional costs to fix failed roads.

The costs to bring all county roads to a “fair” condition, according to the county’s 5-year Road Plan, is $60 million. That plan was obtained at the request of a citizen road advisory task force at a cost of $166,000.

The cost to rebuild a paved road with a 20-year life expectancy is $800,000 to $1 million per mile, with chip sealing to maintain the road at $100,000 every five to seven years.

To rebuild a paved road as a gravel road with a 10-year life expectancy would cost $45,000 to $60,000 per mile, with $5,000 per mile annual maintenance cost to blade the road.

To mill a current road into gravel with a seven- to 10-year life expectancy would cost $10,000 per mile, also with a $5,000 per mile annual maintenance cost to blade the road.

The cost to maintain the county’s current road infrastructure is $4 million to $4.5 million per year, “an extreme shortfall” from the county’s estimated road and bridge revenues for 2013, which equal $900,396.

The presentation then looked at sample breakdowns of what entities property taxes are paid to, showing that the county receives less than 30 percent of those taxes, only some of which goes to road and bridge functions.

Following that, the presentation focused on how the roads are prioritized within the 5-year Road Plan — based on average daily traffic, condition index, preservation of investment, safety and primary roads versus secondary roads.

According to the plan, the roads in question are prioritized as follows:

• Segments of Masters Circle are priorities 33, 36 and 472.

• Pines Drive is priority 53.

• Enchanted Place is priority 97.

• Fiesta Place is priority 98.

• Carefree Place is priority 168.

• Dayspring Place is priority 286.

DeGraaf stated that, with the county’s current resources, it would be far longer than five years before the roads were fixed.

The discussion

“We’re trying to base our decisions on what’s best for the county,” commissioner Clifford Lucero said to begin the meeting.

Despite setting ground rules for the meeting, Lucero went on to urge that the crowd be respectful several times during the meeting.

And the majority of those in attendance made it clear that they did not want to live next to a gravel road.

“I’m completely against the gravel road,” John Lindquist said as public comment began.

“Why are you tearing up our roads?” Don Chippendale asked emphatically as he gave the commissioners a piece of the torn-up paved road, adding that he had been yelled at, cussed out and lied to by county staff.

Hoppy Hopson noted that reverting from pavement to gravel was moving backward, and the county did not want to be a leader in moving backward.

“Everybody understands … there have been bad decisions made,” said Chip Munday, Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association manager said, urging that everyone work as a community.

Some people at the meeting suggested the roads could be fixed by filling the potholes (a task too large for county staff, County Public Works Director Ken Feyen noted), buying the county time until it could repave the roads. Some suggested that the county plow the roads less to slow the degradation of the pavement (which Feyen later explained would have the opposite effect, because water would seep into the roads).

Others suggested that reverting the roads to gravel would affect property values, which would, in turn, affect the economy.

Some questioned if the roads would receive a magnesium chloride treatment after being converted to gravel (only if they were at or above 200 vehicles for the average daily traffic) and expressed health concerns about the dust generated.

Others suggested it was unfair that their road received little maintenance, with property taxes generated by the area being used elsewhere.

Others suggested the county look for funding opportunities — to which Feyen pointed out the county’s current federal grant to rebuild a portion of Piedra Road.

“There’s solutions beyond dirt,” one attendee said.

Other comments at the meeting centered on drainage issues in the area, that renters do not pay property tax, and that other area roads need to be dealt with due to the presence of tourist traffic.

A few in the crowd, however, were OK with the county’s proposition to mill up the existing pavement.

“I, for one, would rather see these roads converted to gravel,” said Larry Walton, speaking of damage done to his vehicle because of the condition of the roads.

Throughout the discussion, the commissioners and county staff chimed in with clarification to comments, such as that the county had spent no money for recreational amenities on Reservoir Hill (a Town of Pagosa Springs project that was voted against in a town election).

Commissioner Steve Wadley also urged the formation of special districts for road improvement and perhaps maintenance of roads in order for residents to keep their roads to their standards.

Feyen also noted that the current county staff and officials inherited the roads in question, which were built poorly about 20 years ago.

“That’s why we’re in a losing battle,” Feyen said.

At the end of the meeting, the commissioners each thanked the audience for its participation and urged continued involvement.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on July 18, 2013.