There is not a single good road to Tampa and constituents have the pieces of it to prove it.
A room full of disgruntled citizens wanted answers Monday morning from Marion County Commission regarding the improvement of roads that lead to Tampa.
Two teens brought in a basket with pieces of asphalt and set it on the commission table.
“We feel like we’re getting shortchanged at Tampa,” Tampa State Bank President Chris Costello said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve bottomed-out my car.”
He continued that a county motor grader operator has pulled dirt from a ditch which is making it only worse.
Residents shared experiences of broken windshields, flat and ruined tires, and damage to their vehicles.
“It’s a rollover waiting to happen,” Kent Becker said.
One resident on Diamond Road between 330th and 350th said pieces of the road wash out whenever it rains. Huge pieces of concrete have washed into her field and she isn’t sure if the bridge is stable.
Acting county public works director John Summerville said a boxed bridge had been ordered and will be installed when received.
“I know you can’t afford to hire an engineer but could you hire a consulting engineer?” asked Gary Spohn. “Have him look at our roads.”
Costello said that he understood that the road south of Tampa is being torn up and will set for two years before being completed.
“We’ve been through that process three or four times. They let it set there a year or two and then come in and put on a hard surface, and the potholes begin again,” he said.
David Mueller said by putting on a thin layer, moisture comes in quickly. He said he can understand one road being torn up or in disrepair but to have all three routes that way is incomprehensible.
“The shoulders are crumbling to pieces. Trying to haul grain is impossible without tearing up equipment. What do we do when we meeting someone on the road?” he asked.
Becker, who is vice president of Tampa State Bank, said even though he doesn’t live in Tampa, it appears to him that Tampa is trying to be progressive.
“The town is becoming isolated because of the roads. There aren’t a lot of businesses there but there is an impact,” he said.
Stan Utting, manager of Agri-Producers, Inc. of Tampa, said his business has lost hundreds of thousands of grain receipts because of the roads.
“Additional transportation to us is enormous. It’s a serious deal, Bob,” Utting said, directing his comments to commission chairman Bob Hein.
Utting said they have heard the commission is out of money and can’t afford road improvements.
“I’m afraid that’s what is happening again. It’s had a major impact on our company. I probably should have been down here sooner. Nothing gets better. You just ignore it,” he said. “Do you have a plan to do anything or only react to a crisis?”
Amber Peterson said a piece of asphalt broke the fuel valve to the gas tank on her van when she was traveling on the west road to Tampa.
“We had a terrible situation east of Lincolnville a few days ago,” Tom Duggan said, referring to a fatality accident. “I think we’re very lucky that we haven’t had something like that in the Tampa area.”
It was noted that school buses travel on Tampa roads six times a day.
Carole Spohn noted that she has only had about half of the mileage from a set of car tires.
“We’ll probably leave Marion County in 10 years because of the poor infrastructure,” she said. “We’ll have to leave.”
Costello asked if there were other roads in the county that has loose asphalt on the roadway. The commissions shook their heads, “yes.”
Becker also asked about the upkeep of roads that are a part of the Santa Fe Trail Auto Tour. He said he maintains the kiosk for the Cottonwood Crossing and distributes 100 brochures every few weeks.
There are plans on the drawing board for people to stop at the springs by Lost Springs, Becker said, but if there isn’t a decent road, who would want to come?
“There are grants available but they won’t pay for roads,” Becker said.
Summerville agreed that the roads were poor but was limited with money, equipment, and manpower.
“The whole problem is a lack of base. A lot of these roads were designed 50 years ago. Your roads are terrible. You’re going to have to give me some time.”
“If we could have one good road with a thick overlay that would last 10 years, we would be further ahead,” Mueller said.
The commissioners agreed that the roads were in need of attention but said there was no additional funds available to improve all of them.
“It came to a head before John (Summerville) came to this job. The first project was Timber and west of Peabody. The former superintendent was experimenting how to make a good road base. That was three years ago. The product up there is the result of those decisions,” commissioner Randy Dallke said.
“What are we going to do to drive safely while you’re in the process of rebuilding the roads?” Carole Spohn asked.
“Basically, you can’t,” Summerville responded. “To make roads safe, they would have to be closed. There is no quick fix.
“It’s taken a long time for the roads to get in this condition and it’s probably going to take about as long to fix them,” Summerville said.
Mueller verified that sub-contracting road work was not an option because of cost.
“We’d probably have to put a mill levy to it to pay for it,” commissioner Dan Holub said. “We didn’t anticipate $4 per gallon fuel prices.”
“What you’re telling me is there isn’t enough manpower and tax base to maintain roads,” Becker said. “Don’t you have to look at sub-contracting?”
“Then you’re looking at a mill levy increase,” Holub responded.
Utting said he wouldn’t be opposed to paying more taxes if he saw results.
Some commented that it doesn’t do any good to fix them if they aren’t maintained.
For public safety sake, wouldn’t the county want to work on the worst roads? That’s what we’ve done, the commission responded.
Peterson asked if the county would be willing to pay for a new fuel tank.