JOHNSBURG - To retool, repave or leave well-enough alone - that is the question for town officials as they look to set priorities for the town highway department.
Officials are debating what the best priorities for the highway department are as they ramp up for yet another budgetary season. The debate centers around more than 25 miles of crumbling paved roads, two-decade old equipment and the town's responsibilities to local taxpayers.
"There is a history of too little highway funding in past budgets," Councilman Gene Arsenault said June 16. "We have fallen behind in road construction and are now overwhelmed."
According to Arsenault, the town can only afford to buy or bond new trucks or to begin much needed road repairs, but not both.
"I think we have done a reasonable job maintaining the roads, but not improving them," he said.
According to Johnsburg Highway Superintendent Dan Hitchcock, the estimated cost of repaving the highly-pitted Durkin Road, for example, in North Creek would be around $450,000 for a 1.3 mile stretch - or $28,000 per tenth-mile.
The town received roughly $181,000 in state funding which could be used for the project, Hitchcock said.
A seven-tenths mile stretch of Garnet Lake Road is costing warren County more than $220,000 for a 20-year "fix."
"I just don't see a funding mechanism for fixing all over the roads in need of repair," Hitchcock said.
He said that he believes that buying new trucks would best serve the community. Almost all of the five town plow trucks are over 15 years old. Recommended operating life of each $180,000 truck is about 10 years, officials said.
The 2009 town budget features $1.05 million in highway funding. Over a third of which is dedicated to snow removal expenditures.
The cost of new trucks would cost about $1 million alone, Hitchcock said.
"I feel the town needs new equipment first and foremost," he said. "We need to get to a place where we can at least maintain the dirt roads."
Officials discussed potentially turning some paved roads into dirt roads to allow for cheaper and easier maintenance.
"It's important for everyone to understand how big this problem is," Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed said. "There is no doubt that the condition of many of the roads is unacceptable, but I believe rebuilding the fleet in way that is fair to the taxpayer may be the best route."