Magistrates discuss changing road requirements

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Consider accepting gravel roads into county system

By Calen McKinney

County residents could soon no longer be required to have their roads blacktopped in order for the county to maintain them.
Now, residents wanting the county to maintain their roads must submit a request and then abide by several requirements, one being that the road is blacktopped.
However, on Monday, at a meeting of Taylor County Fiscal Court’s Transportation Committee, magistrates discussed how that requirement essentially eliminates some roads from ever being accepted into the county road maintenance system, because the cost to blacktop roads is high.
Magistrate Richard Phillips, who, along with Magistrate Matt Pendleton, serves on the Committee, said some situations have arisen that prompted the two to discuss changing the requirements for roads to be added to the county road system.
Magistrates have accepted gravel roads into the system before, Pendleton said, and the county receives money from the state based on how many road miles are within Taylor County. If the county doesn’t add roads to its system, that state funding can’t increase.
The county adopted an ordinance in 2008 setting requirements for roads built in subdivisions. In 2007, magistrates voted that roads considered for inclusion in the county road system must be 18 feet wide with a 40-foot right of way, be blacktopped and at least three homes must be built on the road. Since then, few roads have been added to the county road system.
Magistrates have in the past said they want to work toward eliminating all the gravel roads in the county.
On Monday, it was proposed that the subdivision requirements and the regulations added in 2007 be combined, but changed to say that roads no longer have to be blacktopped for the county to maintain then and there can be two homes on the roads instead of the three required now.
Phillips also proposed that a listing of steps be spelled out for residents who want their roads added to the county maintenance system.
In those steps, the county road foreman would first inspect the road and state his or her opinion of whether it should be added to the system.
Next, magistrates would have first reading of adding the road to the system, as a way Phillips said to show to the landowner that his or her work and expense to fulfill the rest of the requirements won’t be in vain.
Third, Phillips said, there must be at least two property owners who live on the road, not the three required now. He said requiring three penalizes those who live on roads in which only two people live.
Items four, five and six pertain to rock and other specifics for the road.
Seventh, Phillips said, the road must have a functional ditch on both sides, unless the road foreman deems one not necessary. Eighth, he said, proper piping and tiling must be in place.
The ninth step, Phillips said, is that a centerline survey must be completed and approved by the Taylor County attorney.
Lastly, all landowners must agree that the road will have the proper right of way and be deeded to the county.
After those steps are complete, Phillips said, magistrates will have a final vote on adding the road to the county’s maintenance system.
Magistrate Ed Gorin said the cost of a centerline survey is expensive. Pendleton said that alone could deter some from asking for their road to be added.
Phillips said there are five gravel roads in his district and, under the current requirements, four of them can never be county roads.
All the proposed changes will do, Pendleton said, is create a path for people to follow should they want their roads to be added.
“At no promise of blacktop,” Phillips said.
County Road Foreman Brian Smothers said the county doesn’t have the money to blacktop all of its current roads, let alone any new ones added to the county road system. Gorin said he was told at a recent meeting that when all roads in a county are blacktopped, the county sees savings when it comes to maintenance. Nevertheless, Phillips said, some people simply can’t afford to blacktop their roads.
Taylor County residents Utah and Helen Canada and Roy Canada attended the meeting on Monday. They said they have built a road in a subdivision, but haven’t been able to blacktop it, so, as of now, it can’t be accepted into the county road system.
Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said doing away with the blacktop requirement could mean developers build a road, ask for the county to maintain it and then expect the county to blacktop it. And when that request is made, he said, all residents must be treated the same.
“That’s what this does,” Phillips said of the proposed changes.
Pendleton said he expects most developers will want to blacktop their roads in order to sell lots. Rogers agreed, but said a problem was created in the past when the county would blacktop roads in new subdivisions.
Gorin said he believes that roads in subdivisions should be blacktopped before accepted into the county’s system. Phillips said the county can’t require that.
The proposed changes are expected to be presented at the next regular Taylor County Fiscal Court meeting on Tuesday, July 8, at 6 p.m. at the Taylor County Courthouse. It is open to the public.