Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Additional Levy Considered to Maintain Auburn’s Roads
January 30, 2014 by Diane Ryder | No Comments

Auburn Township homeowners will need to approve paying an additional 2 mills in property taxes if the township is to continue its 20-year road program…

Auburn Township homeowners will need to approve paying an additional 2 mills in property taxes if the township is to continue its 20-year road program into the future, according to Road Superintendent Emerick Gordon’s annual road projects report.

“We’ve seen the wall and we will have to take some action,” said Trustee John Eberly, who serves as liaison with the township road department.

Part of the problem, according to Eberly and Gordon, is the building boom of several years ago left a legacy to the township of rapidly aging subdivision roads, including 73 cul-de-sacs that now need repair.

Another factor is that state funding help is increasingly hard to get, placing the road maintenance burden directly on the local communities, they said.

Eberly and Gordon met with the Geauga County Engineer’s Office to put together a five-year plan, which included annual ratings of each of the township’s 54 miles of roads.

The township has spent the last 20 years in an aggressive program to turn gravel roads to chip-and-seal and eventually to asphalt, Eberly said, adding asphalt lasts up to seven times longer and costs much less to maintain.

Each year, Gordon, Eberly and the road crew inspect each road and give it a rating.

“It’s not just my opinion. I take my guys out to assess and Mr. Eberly goes out too,” Gordon said. “I think it’s a system that has worked very well.”

Eberly said that 96 percent of the asphalt surfaces are in the acceptable range, which Gordon said was due to an aggressive crack seal program.

“We keep our best roads our best roads,” Gordon said, adding that approach has kept the roads in good repair, stretching their lifespan and saving resurfacing costs.

But the building boom of the 1990s gave the township an additional 14 miles of roads to maintain and many of the subdivision roads have not held up well, Gordon said.

A case in point is Ascot Lane, a mile-long roadway that began failing three years after it was built, according to Eberly, who called it one of the three immediate challenges facing the township’s road program.

“There’s a total failure of that road surface,” Eberly said.

He said the township has worked to improve drainage, crack sealed and patched it several times, but the road now needs total reconstruction, which he called a “massive project for a one-mile road.”

Gordon proposed the road be rebuilt in 2016 at an estimated cost of $400,000.

Eberly said a 4.5-mile stretch of Taylor May Road is reaching the end of its lifespan and he believes the road qualifies as a county road.

He would like the county to take it over in return for the more residential Messenger Road.

“Every year, the county assesses (the roads), but at this time they’re not ready to do a swap,” Eberly said. “So we have to re-insert Taylor May back into our maintenance program.”

The township still has 14 miles of chip-seal roads, which need to be resurfaced every other year, Eberly said. It costs 40 percent less to maintain an asphalt surface, which should last about 14 years.

“The faster we get rid of the chips, the sooner we get the savings,” Eberly said, adding converting those surfaces to asphalt will save the township $1.7 million over the next 14 years.

Gordon proposed $763,000 in projects for this year — $715,000 in 2015 and $763,000 in 2016 — but by 2017, nine miles of subdivision roads will need resurfacing.

Gordon projected the township’s road maintenance costs will jump to $1.3 million in 2017 and another $1.3 million in 2018.

“From 2017 on, we’ll have to pave four miles a year instead of two,” Gordon said.

Eberly added, “This is the new reality, guys. It’s what we get for taking on those roads. This is a number that’s never going back down to $700,000 (a year), guys.”

Since 1996, the township’s road program has been funded by three 1-mill levies that bring in $234,000 each annually and the township’s general fund augments the money as needed.

Eberly said the township has no choice but to seek additional funding if the residents want to continue maintaining the roads.

“The proof is in the pudding here; we’ve got to look at a 2-mill levy starting in 2014,” Eberly said. “We’ve seen the wall and we’ve gotta take some action now so we don’t slam into it.”

That one additional mill would leave the township way under-funded.

“It would give people an opportunity to say, ‘I like what you’re doing,’” Eberly said. “We haven’t put a new levy on for a long, long time. We would be doing the entire program on five mills.”

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think we have to look into the future here. If we wait, we’ll be so far behind we’ll never be able to catch up and we’ll have complete road failures,” he said.

The other two trustees said they weren’t surprised at the news.

“This is the result of the building boom,” Trustee P.J. Cavanagh said. “It’s a quality of life issue.”

“We’ve known this was gonna happen for 12 years,” Trustee Mike Troyan said. “This won’t be the last time we’ll have this discussion before (the August deadline for the November ballot),” Eberly said. “It’s food for thought.”

Trustees took no formal action.

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