FLORIDA - Canceled Gas Tax Increase Leaves No Sidewalk Fundinggreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
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Canceled gas tax increase leaves no sidewalk funding
March 19, 2000 By Jerry M. Gutlon
STUART - Step on a crack and you break your mother's back.
So goes the familiar, childhood chant.
Unfortunately for many Martin County residents, it might be impossible to avoid the cracks.
The fact is, the county's sidewalks are in dire need of repair - but the county's fiscal cupboard is bare, according to Martin County Public Services Director Don Donaldson.
In the wake of last week's unofficial decision by the Martin County Commission to forgo a 1- or 2-cent hike in the county's gas tax, Donaldson is certain of two things.
First, he has more than 11 miles of sidewalks that need to be repaired.
Second, he doesn't have the money to fix them.
''I did a study back in June to determine just how many of our sidewalks needed repairs,'' Donaldson said Friday. ''The bottom-line figure was 11.3 miles of sidewalks.''
Donaldson was hoping the County Commission would authorize the hike in the gas tax to cover the repairs.
Now, he said, it's back to the drawing board.
The board instructed County Administrator Russ Blackburn to look at other funding sources in lieu of additional gas tax revenue.
But Blackburn said he's at a loss. ''It's possible there might be some money from the state,'' Blackburn said, ''but I'm really not too hopeful. It's a tough situation.''
County Commissioner Dennis Armstrong - who was out of town when the commission met Tuesday - said he's also stymied.
''Much as I realize that the price of gas is already outrageous, I don't know how else we could've provided funds for the sidewalks,'' Armstrong said.
Aside from gas tax revenue, Donaldson said he identified other potential sources in a memo to commissioners last month, including a bond issue that could provide long-term funds for sidewalk repairs.
''Historically, the commission hasn't wanted to issue bonds for construction projects,'' Donaldson said. ''The board has preferred to pay off the projects as we've undertaken them.''
The problem facing Donaldson isn't simply deteriorating sidewalks. Because the county hasn't had a program to maintain sidewalks with any regularity, he said, it needs to catch up on more than 10 years of neglect.
Donaldson estimated the county must ante up more than $2.3 million to replace and repair the damaged sidewalks.
Additionally, he'd like to beef up the public works department with a six-person sidewalk repair crew.
All told, Donaldson said, the new program would cost nearly $430,000 annually, a savings of $400,000 compared with hiring an outside contractor. Feedback@TCPalm.com
-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 19, 2000