Road commission wants tax to control dust on gravel roads

OSCEOLA COUNTY– The Osceola County Road Commission wants to place a tax millage on a future ballot to pay for brining gravel roads to control dust.

The one mil tax increase would bring in $575,139 for the road commission to outsource the brining of roads to a professional company.

Osceola County has 652 miles of local and primary gravel roads and 274 miles of blacktop roads.

“Our number one complaint in Osceola County is dust control on gravel roads,” said Cliff Youngs, Osceola County Road Commission supervisor.

Brining roads is a two-step process that includes gravel roads being raked and a brine solution applied.

“The brine acts as a cementing agent and binds the gravel on the road so you don’t have dust,” Young said. “The more brine we apply, the longer the life of our gravel roads.”

Currently the commission brines roads once per year. It takes the county five months to get around to each gravel road in the county using their own trucks and staff.

The millage would pay for the roads to be brined twice by a professional company who could complete the job in two weeks using a larger fleet of trucks and devoting full-time efforts to brining.

With proper maintenance, Youngs said gravel roads should have a 15-year life and blacktop roads in the county should have a 30-year life.

He said many roads are in poor condition due to recent cuts that have left the road commission without the funds to properly maintain them.

“We currently don’t have enough money to take care of our roads,” Youngs said.

The road commission proposed a similar county-wide millage in 2008 that was not approved. The funds in the previous millage were not specified as to what they would be used for. The new millage would specify that funds only be used on brining.

“If people know what it is going to be spent on, hopefully they will approve it,” Youngs said.

The road commission currently uses $350,000 annually from their general fund on brining roads. Youngs said if the millage passed, that money could be spent on other road improvements.

“If we didn’t spend that money on the brining program, it could be used for preventative maintenance on overlays, the replacement of culverts and bridges, and anything associate with road maintenance,” Youngs said.

Other potential projects the road commission could focus on include the purchase of salt in the winter, repairing roads with chip and crack seals and spraying unwanted grass and weeds that crowd the sides of roads.

Board of commissioners chairman Dave Brooks said the board and local residents had many questions and concerns about the proposal.

One concern is the fact that the majority of the residents in Osceola County live on blacktop roads and brining roads may not be the best way to use taxpayer money. Another was the fact that many millages will already be on the ballot, including one for the Osceola County Commission on Aging and fire and police services.

“At some point it comes down to everybody looking at their pocket books and trying to make decisions that are best for the county,” Brooks said.

The board asked Youngs to clarify the wording of his proposal. After attorney approval and a change in wording, Youngs plans to present a millage proposal again at the next meeting Tues., March 20 at 9:30 a.m. where further discussion will take place. If the millage is approved, it could appear on the ballot in either August or November.

In other business, the commission:

  • approved the COA accepting a $2,500 grant from Home Depot;
  • discussed looking for a new facility for the COA Evart meal site by June 1;
  • approved the purchase of software and training for the building inspections and animal control offices, which could range from $1,100 to $2,500;
  • instructed the county coordinator to look into ways to share building inspection services with surrounding counties.