Commission at a crossroads

Published 10:39 pm Monday, March 8, 2010

There isn’t much funding out there to pay for the maintenance of Chilton County’s roads and bridges. Yet it’s the one need that continues to dominate discussion in commission meetings.

Chilton County Engineer Tony Wearren brought out an interesting statistic Monday — that if the road department set out to resurface the county’s paved roads according to state standards, it would take more than 40 years. During that time, some roads would need to be reworked. That doesn’t include bridge repair and dirt road paving.

People should know that not all road problems are caused by lack of maintenance. Weather and simple wear and tear are big factors as well. Some roads haven’t been paved in 30 or 40 years, and roads simply were not meant to last that long.

We agree with the idea to hold a public hearing on an additional 1-cent sales tax. It’s been said time and again that a sales tax is the fairest tax. Why not hear how the people would like to see this money spent? Then the commission can make a more informed decision as they come up with a plan to present to the public.

Then, let the people vote. If they don’t want it, that’s the people’s choice. Either way, a vote is the only way to find out.

The commission will certainly need to come up with the best possible plan to convince people to vote on it. A tax could even be phased out and voted on again in the future, if the measure passes.

As Rep. Jimmy Martin said Monday, they will need to educate the public. There are likely people who do not realize that Chilton County’s current sales tax goes 100 percent toward schools.

Another option would be borrowing money. About $6 million has become available in federal stimulus money, but, like a bond issue, it would have to be paid back. About $2.5 million of this could go toward roads and other infrastructure.

Bond issues can be great to move work forward, but if there are high interest rates, perhaps the commission should think twice before voting.

Ultimately, the solution will take unity from the commission and support from the community.