It’s true I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but I cannot figure out the county’s residential road resurfacing program.
It seems pretty basic. The roads are rated on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the worst. Anything with a 7 or higher meets the criteria for resurfacing.
But then there’s the density part: Number of homes per street. More houses means a better chance of being resurfaced.
And while there are lousy roads throughout our county, Citrus Springs and Pine Ridge are generally thought to have more poor roads, in the 8-to-10 rating area, than anywhere.
So it was a little strange last week when the County Commission approved the $6.3 million 2022-23 countywide residential road resurfacing list and it contained exactly zero streets in Citrus Springs or Pine Ridge.
You may be wondering, yeah, but outside of those communities, who cares?
This is where it gets interesting. We all pay for those repaving projects through gas tax and, if county commissioners stick with their plan, we’ll be paying property tax for it as well.
The county commission has a budget hearing at 5 p.m. Thursday. By now property owners should have received TRIM notices that show the proposed millage rate and what that does to your taxes.
Commissioners are looking for an increase to help pay for EMS costs, mental-health services including a Baker Act facility, pay raises for sheriff’s officers and more money for residential road resurfacing.
EMS, Baker Act and sheriff’s pay raises are pretty much locked in. It’s difficult to see commissioners moving away from any of those.
That leaves neighborhood road repaving. The topic may be duller than day-old dishwater but it’s a big deal if you live on one of these streets.
I looked at the county GIS map that showed street ratings and there’s gobs of red all over the place. Red means the road is rated 7 or above. Citrus Springs, Pine Ridge, Beverly Hills and Sugarmill Woods in particular have the worst roads.
During the political campaign, county commission candidates heard an earful from Pine Ridge about the density rule that says roads get a higher priority based on the number of houses per foot of road.
That makes sense, right? It’s dumb to repave streets with few homes. Except…what if the homes are on large lots, as they are in Pine Ridge? Quarter-acre lots mean fewer homes on any given street, but it doesn’t mean the street is empty of homeowners.
And for Citrus Springs to get shut out of the countywide list is a red flag that this process needs another look.
(Making it more complicated: Citrus Springs has its own MSBU — property owners pay $25 a year — that provides $1 million for street repaving. Unlike the countywide program, though, the Citrus Springs MSBU takes the worst roads first regardless of whether they have houses or not.)
County commissioners don’t choose the roads for repaving, though they approve the final list. Each commission district gets something.
That may make political sense but it makes no practical sense. Shouldn’t the criteria simply be road condition and some sort of density? What does geography have to do with it other than score political points for commissioners?
I don’t want to hear commissioners say they’ve got the best plan for neighborhood road repaving, when in reality they may be skipping past some roads because of where they’re located.
Road repaving isn’t the most exciting topic. But I will say this: Not a week goes by in the commission email that I don’t see someone, usually a fairly new resident, complaining about the condition of their street and wondering what the county is doing about it.
Commissioners think they have an answer. By adding a little to the tax rate every year over five years, they’ll have what’s needed to repave streets on a regular schedule.
Now, that’s if they approve the tax hike. It was unanimous in July when they set the tentative tax rate that’s being discussed Thursday. Not unusual at all for commissioners to say one thing to an empty room in July and something completely different two months later when the room isn’t empty.
Commissioners have heard for eight years that residential road repaving is a top priority. Now they’ll hear if the public is willing to pay for it.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.