Tackling road issues: Budget a little or bond a lot?

 

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — This is the infrastructure conundrum that faces most towns and cities in Maine.

A road in disrepair can benefit from a fresh layer of pavement put on it. But, that solution only lasts a few years – particularly if rebuilding the road is what is really required. Sometimes, it costs more to delay needed road repairs because of the extra expenses shelled out in maintenance.

Another problem is that numerous roads are in need of improvements at the same time. So, while funding is focused on one road, another road reaches the point of not holding out much longer for repairs.

According to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton, it is an on-going process of using what money has been budgeted to do the worst, most travelled roads — sometimes one section at a time.

The Casco Board of Selectmen is already on task to do sections of Johnson Hill Road and Edwards Road. Engineering plans offer cost estimates for Phase I and Phase II of both roads. The cost for each phase is estimated around $500,000.

The board recently reviewed the cost estimates for the two proposed road repairs. The selectmen asked the questions that require answering in order to move forward at a faster pace with its road improvement plan. Should more funding be allocated to complete a few more road repair projects this year? Are residents willing to take out a bond to complete several road projects at once?

At this point in time, no money has been put toward engineering sketches for other roads, only Edwards Road and Johnson Hill Road.

However, as the time approaches to prepare the municipal budget, the road repair discussion may rev up, Morton said.

“I would suggest that we do a thorough and good job and not stretch funding. Most of our town roads were never built to standard,” Morton said.

Ultimately, the decision is based on how much funding is approved during Town Meeting in June. The Casco Finance Committee may receive a are in need of improvements. nce budget,ore toward road-repair projects.timated around $500,000. request from the board to try to budget more toward road-repair projects, but that is on the horizon.

For the two roads on the to-do list — Johnson Hill Road and Edwards Road — it will cost almost a million dollars to do one section of both roads, or to complete one road during the road construction season.

It is absolutely unadvisable to add $1,000,000 to the road-repair budget, Morton said.

For that sum of money, it is preferable to take out a bond, he said.

Prior to the discussion, resident Tom Mulkern weighed in on town-wide road improvements.

The timing is good because the cost of borrowing money is down, he said. Plus, the price of oil is down so paving products are less expensive, he said.

“We should really challenge the budget committee to get more roads done,” Mulkern said.

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