Are Casco taxpayers willing to pay bond, budget paving?
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — Casco Selectman Grant Plummer expressed his concerns about whether or not the public would support an annual budget for road maintenance and paving now that a $2 million roads repair bond is in place.
After all, taxpayers will already be paying off the loan that will allow the Town of Casco to start rebuilding its most problematic roads. As was pointed out, some of those roads like Tenney Hill Road will have sections repaired rather than redoing the entire road.
Road maintenance and paving is “one of those areas where we are underfunded,” Plummer said on Tuesday.
“Now that we have the bond, I am panicked that we won’t rebuild that (budget) for the next 10 or 15 years,” he said.
He said it was his belief that the road maintenance and paving accounts “are half funded right now.”
“We could spend $500,000 or $600,000 in paving, that would allow us to do one road,” Plummer said.
According to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton, the town typically sets aside $300,000 for road maintenance — which includes the unexpected road failures, and $200,000 for paving.
Because of the timing of Town Meeting, money for paving is not approved and available until July 1. Therefore, paving projects usually happen in September.
The Casco Board of Selectmen held two workshops on Tuesday evening — one to discuss the time frame for making payments on the roads bond and another workshop to discuss a 10-year plan for paving and maintaining roads.
Basically, the bond should be issued in the early spring, allowing the town to put the road reconstruction job out to bid in the spring. That time frame will most likely result in road projects beginning in June, Morton said.
Roads on the reparation list include Edwards Road (which leads to the Town Beach on Crescent Lake), Johnson Hill Road, Cooks Mills Road, Tenney Hill Road and Raymond Cape Road.
During the conversation, Plummer said it would be great to drive on a newly-paved road in June, instead of late September.
Meanwhile, the selectmen will sit down next October to develop the 10-year road plan based on funding and needs.
Morton said that the maintenance budget will not be tapped as it has been in the past, since much road maintenance went toward roads that will be improved using the bond and will no longer require regular maintenance.
Plummer advocated for using the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) software, which the town purchased about three years ago, as a tool to determine which roads need the most TLC while the bond covers the cost of improving roads on the list.
“I don’t want to put this aside and not think about it for 10 years,” Plummer said.
Chairman Holly Hancock said the town could get into a bonding cycle, taking out another roads bond in 10 to 15 years once the current one is paid off. That was an option and not necessarily something she was recommending.
It might be that Casco residents do not want to simultaneously make yearly payments on the roads bond and fund an annual road paving budget.
“The cry from taxpayers is: ‘Don’t raise taxes, but we want good roads.’ You cannot do both,” Morton said.
Plummer spoke on the topic.
“Our job is to learn how this bonding issue is hurting and helping us,” he said. “We need to look at both sides of the financial piece of it. In year nine or ten, the budget won’t satisfy anything,” he said, referring to the fact the inflation will raise the costs of road repair and paving.
“People aren’t going to like that we are still paying for road work” in nine or ten year, Plummer said.
Morton pointed out that some communities do not spend their paving budget for one fiscal year so that it can build up the following year. So, those communities do paving projects every other year when there is enough money to do that.
“As long as the town looks at it (the road maintenance/road paving budgets) and is open to investing each time,” the roads around town should stay in decent shape, he said.
“The problem is we have flatfunded or not increased our road budget over time,” Morton said.