Ohio winters are tough on the state’s paved infrastructure. And driving on Morrow County’s craggy county roads will tell you that in a hurry.
Dodging the roads’ ever present potholes, cracks and crevices prove a challenge to both Morrow drivers and the county road crew, which spends many of its days patching the streets’ asphalt issues.
To help alleviate what many residents say are rough roads, voters will be presented with a tax levy on the March ballot.
The ballot initiative would raise approximately $1.55 million per year, over five-year period, for the county to pave roads that would otherwise not get a fresh asphalt coat during that time period.
The funds from the levy would pad the county’s limited transportation repair budget, which is funded through a dwindling gas tax base and license plate fees.
“The gas tax is a flat rate per gallon,” Assistant Morrow County Engineer Bart Dennison explained. “Which means we get a set rate per gallon sold. With the increase in fuel efficient and electric cars on the road, we just don’t get as much money from it as we used to.”
Dennison is slated to run unopposed for the soon-to-be vacant Morrow County Engineer seat in the March 15 primary election. A position, if elected by the one necessary vote, from which Dennison would look to further road improvement.
As the current Assistant Engineer, he oversees much of the road work done by the county street department and says he and the crew are beginning to take a more proactive approach to road repair.
“The levy (if passed) would go to help us get better roads that will be easier for us to maintain,” he said. “Water is our biggest enemy. “It gets down into the cracks (in the road), freezes and thaws, that’s how potholes form. We have to combat that.”
Currently, the Morrow County road crew employs a chip and seal method for road repair. The thin layer of emulsion seals any fissions in the road to prevent water from penetrating them.
“Basically it’s a system that keeps the water off the roads,” he explained. “It fixes some of the problem but it’s just maintenance.”
Maintenance, Dennison states, is a shortsighted solution and does not address the root of the problem, which he says an outdated road system.
“A lot of these roads were built in the 20s and 30s,” he said. “They’re not meant for the modern traffic they get.”
With passage of the levy 150 miles of Morrow’s county roadways would be re-paved giving them a more solid foundation. An extension of the levy, at no additional cost to residents, would allow the department to pave the county’s 300 miles of roads in its entirety.
“The Commissioners approved and support the levy,” Morrow County Commissioner Tom Whiston said. “The (funding) will allow us to pave half of the county roads over the next five years and make the roads safer and allow people to save time when driving on them.”
Additionally, Dennison stated that every candidate, regardless of party affliation, in attendance at the month’s previous Morrow County primary candidate night, voiced unanmious support of the levy.
Should the March road levy pass, the average Morrow County homeowner would see a $5.83 per month income tax increase. The jump is a small price to pay for better roads Dennison says.
“We would have safer, smoother roads,” he explained. “That means less wear and tear on cars, less vehicle maintenance and lowered emergency response time.”
In addition to immediate improvements in road travel, the Assistant Engineer estimates re-pavement would attract more businesses and homeowners to the area, something he sees as a necessity in the coming years.
“We have realtors come to us all the time saying they can’t sell a nice house because of the road it’s on,” he said.
Also, the Assistant County Engineer believes that because of its proximity to Columbus and Delaware, Morrow County will be part of a large population and economic boom over the next few years.
“Morrow County is projected to really grow in the near future,” he said. “I want to get ahead of it and fix our roads now, so that we can bring new economic growth to the area.”
Voters interested in learning more about the costs and benefits of the levy can attend the county’s informational session slated for March 2 at 7 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Marengo.
Reach Jones at 419-946-3010