Just the facts on parish roads and sales tax

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By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

We hate the roads in the parish.

Family Doctors

We hate taxes.

One may be the solution to overcome the other – or not.

The one-half cent sales tax on the March 30 ballot has created more than one discussion. Public Works Director John Richmond spoke with the Times Tuesday to help the public understand the issues associated with repairing the roads, temporary fixes VS permanent solutions, costs involved and what will happen should the tax pass.

First issue is cost:

•1 mile costs $300,000 (average)

•850 miles of road in the parish

•1,000 roads in parish

Options:

•grind to gravel – pulverizing the existing asphalt and creating a road bed of gravel

•grind to asphalt – the steps outlined below for a new asphalt road.

Grind to asphalt is a more permanent fix of the two options. It consists of:

(1) pulverizing the existing road

(2) stabilizing the road bed with soil cement

(3) laying new asphalt

Time involved to repair 1 mile

(1) pulverizing – minimum one day

(2) stabilizing – minimum one day

(3) asphalt – maximum three-fourths day

(4) overall – average of one week per mile (excluding permitting time and moving of equipment)

Richmond said in many places, the best, and quicker solution, would be grind to gravel. The road would be in better condition than the existing pothole riddled asphalt. Another benefit would be regular grading to keep the road bed stable at a much lower cost than asphalting it.

Second issue, ditches:

The ditches are the first step in bringing a road back to asphalt. Richmond said ideally the roads are graded. Excess or wet dirt is pushed to the side with the intention of allowing it to dry then bringing it back to the roadbed.

Problems:

(1) Too much rain does not allow the excess to dry out

(2) Original roads were simply carved or scraped out by removing top layers until a solid road bed was reached. This created a road bed lower than the ditches.

(3) Over time, the excess materials built up creating elevated ditches that force the water back onto the road, rather than draining away from it.

Third issue, cold mix:

This is the black material workers shovel into potholes for a temporary fix. If applied properly, the cold mix should set up and repair the pothole.

Problems:

(1) Cold mix applied to a wet hole

(2) Traffic over the hole before the mix has properly set

(3) Settling of the cold mix

Richmond said, “This is a temporary fix to a permanent problem. In many cases, we are putting down cold mix simply as a daily or weekly fix so people can get to and from home and work that day.” He said this is not ideal, but when in a pinch, it’s the only resort.

Fourth issue, funds:

•$1 million budget (average) for all roads in parish

•This figure works out to approximately $1,000 to work with for every mile of road in the parish.

•The $1 million total, divided by $300,000 cost for each 1 mile permanent fix equals only 3 miles, give or take, of permanently fixed road per year.

Finally, the tax:

•The proposed half-percent, not half-cent, sales tax equates to 25 cents on a $50 purchase

•It would double the budget

•It must be used for road and bridge repairs

•Everyone driving the parish roads would contribute to the funds. Residents as well as tourists who make any purchase contribute.

Richmond said the tax funds could not go to trucks or graders or personnel. “It has to go exclusively to roads and bridges in Natchitoches Parish. It would make a difference in catastrophic events such as flooding or cave-ins.”

He said the first $1 million would retain the status quo, and would be used for temporary fixes, grading, etc. The additional funds generated by the sales tax would be money used for real repairs, stabilizing, asphalt, etc.

Richmond said the funds could be used for grind to gravel projects at a small fraction of the cost of grind to asphalt projects. This would result in more gravel roads, but gravel roads that are in better shape than the existing asphalt ones.

Whatever your position on the sales tax, make your voice heard by voting March 30.