The Herald Bulletin

October 11, 2013

Long wait with a rough road

Henry County residents irritated by three-year wait for repaving

By Zach Osowski
The Herald Bulletin

---- — MIDDLETOWN — Bruce Hanson watched a giant machine chew up the road he lived on, turning the once paved road into a gravel road. He said he was told crews would be back soon to repave the road.

Three years later, he's still waiting.

"It's become dangerous to drive on," Hanson said. "Especially on our motorcycles."

Hanson, who lives on North County Road 950 West along with five other families, is a victim of limited budgets.

At least that is what Joe Wiley, Henry County's highway department administrator, said. Wiley said due to a decrease in the department's budget and an increase in prices for materials, the county decided to tear up some roads instead of trying to maintain them.

This led the road Hanson lives on, along with several other low-population roads in Henry County, to be torn up and made into gravel roads.

"It is considerably less expensive for us to maintain a gravel road," Wiley said. "But we have always said our goal is to fix them."

With a dwindling budget, fixing them became a job that simply cost too much. Wiley said the Henry County commissioners decided to focus the money they did have on maintaining the well-traveled roads in the county. Rather than focusing on all the roads equally, the main paving jobs went to the better roads in order to keep them up to date, Wiley said.

Hanson said his road is now covered with six inches of gravel and is graded every once in awhile in an attempt to keep it relatively smooth.

Change may be around the corner for Hanson's road, however. Thanks to new money coming to the county from the state government, Wiley said the department has seen an increase in its budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which began July 1 and runs through June 2014.

Thanks to this influx of cash, Wiley said he is optimistic they will be able to get back out and repave the roads they were forced to tear up in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

"950 west is on the list," Wiley said, "although it has not been taken care of yet."

Wiley said so far the department, which is responsible for 802 miles of road in the county, received an extra $59,000 in August and $48,000 in September. All told, the highway department expects to receive $650,000 in additional funding for the fiscal year.

Wiley said he is encouraged by the money that has come in so far and hopes it continues to come in. He said he expects it will be next year before 950 West gets new pavement due to impending winter weather. He said he understands the impatience residents of those roads might be feeling.

"It is very frustrating," Wiley said. "I wish I could jump into a truck and go fix all the roads right now."

Hanson has been waiting too long to think something will happen soon, but he said he hopes the road will be fixed one day.

Wiley said he is optimistic the highway department will be out to all the county roads eventually.

"Nothing is going to change in the next few months," he said. "But citizens can expect to see us out there soon."

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB or call 640-4847.