How do you want to repair our roads?

Published 11:00 pm Friday, February 15, 2013

On Thursday, February 14, 2013, the Messenger Daily Website Poll asked readers – Would you support a 5-cent gas tax in order to generate funds for road and bridge maintenance in Pike County? 391 votes were cast – 77% said No, we don’t need additional taxes; 18% said Yes, with accountability; and, 5% said I’m undecided.

Where do the 77% that voted NO live in Pike County? In unincorporated areas or in Troy or Brundidge or Goshen? Did they vote NO because they don’t use the “county” roads and bridges? Or, did they vote NO because they think that the State of Alabama or our $16 trillion in debt Federal Government should pave our roads and fix our bridges? Or, did they vote NO because they want our county officials to develop a reasonable plan to get our roads and bridges fixed?

While I am still undecided on the additional gas tax, allow me to ask how the roads and especially bridges in Pike County are going to get fixed and maintained without some type of tax increase or other financial changes at our county commission?

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According to some of our county commissioners, we have bridges in Pike County that cannot be crossed by our school buses loaded with our children; therefore, the buses have to take alternative routes costing additional tax money for the extra fuel being consumed. When will the bridges get to a point where cars and trucks cannot cross them safely?

I have been told by county officials that the ATRIP money just announced for Pike County will go for main county roads and a couple of bridges. My understanding is that the ATRIP money originated from the federal government and can only be used in certain ways and requires a 20% matching grant from Pike County. So, our bridges and many roads still go begging to be fixed and maintained.

Our Pike County government officials constantly complain about not having enough money to fix and maintain our county roads and bridges. Yet, there does not seem to be any short-term or long-term plan to accomplish the task.

If some type of tax increase does not happen, especially a gas tax increase that can partially be paid by out-of-county gas purchasers, then how do we raise the money to fix our bridges and maintain our roads? Borrowing the money?

Some people think that out-of county gas purchasers will bypass Pike County because the price of a gallon of gas will increase by five cents. Who knows if that would happen? So what is the answer?

Let’s look at shutting down our Pike County road department and contracting out to private contractors all of our county road and bridge maintenance in order to save taxpayer dollars..

Why do we, as taxpayers, pay for salaries and benefits and pensions and for county-owned equipment purchases and maintenance and fuel and buildings to house the employees and equipment when all we need is one county engineer and an assistant to determine which roads and bridges need to be fixed and to oversee the contracting-out to private contractors?

Let’s look at an “Adopt-A-Bridge” program and develop fundraising projects to raise the money to fix a bridge. The people of Pike County generously give money to all kinds of community projects every year. Can we call fixing a bridge a community project that is in the best interest of our citizens and especially our kids?

Or, can we support a 5 cent gas tax increase backed by a long-term plan that sets priorities for bridge-fixing and road maintenance and get on with the work necessary to make Pike County a place where the bridges are safe and the roads are in great shape?

I call on the 77 percent that voted NO to contact The Messenger and your County Commissioner and let us know how you want our roads and bridges to get fixed. Let’s get together and solve this problem. Thanks.

Bert Fridlin