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Doing what they can with what they have

Friday, April 3, 2009

(left) This bridge, located on County Road 500 West, just north of CR 450 S., has an invent slowly being eroded away, while Tuesday's rain slowed work to install a new bridge on CR 100 E, between CR 600 and 700 N. (center), and (right) this drainage ditch has slowly grown back, creating standing water on CR 200 W., just north of CR 600 N., which breaks down the chip and seal on the road. Jason Jacobs Photos.
Like many roads in Clay County, the life of a commissioner can be a bumpy one.

Recently, Clay County Commissioners' President Charlie Brown invited The Brazil Times to tour some of the approximately 700 miles of county roads and discuss some of the other aspects the job brings.

"Everyone wants to see the baby, but no one wants to hear about the labor pains," Brown said. "I don't like to drive on bad roads any more than everyone else, and it's a shame that they have to drive on roads like these."

Brown said the commissioners would like to have all of the roads fixed and maintained to levels residents can safely drive on, but the funds just aren't available.

"One thing people might not know is that the money for road repair comes from the gasoline tax, which is allocated by the state, not from property taxes," Brown said. "When it costs approximately $80,000 a mile to pave a road with hot mix like they do on the interstate, the money we receive doesn't go very far."

For 2009, there was approximately $640,000 allocated for road paving, repair and maintenance for Clay County, which is split between two funds. The Local Road and Street Fund had $300,000 at the beginning of the year for road materials, while the Maintenance and Repair section of the Highway Fund had a total of $339,500 for salt, road signs, hardware and tools and stone, gravel and bituminous.

"We do have other options to fix the roads, but cold mix is just a little cheaper than hot mix, and going with chip and seal is about $20,000 a mile," Brown said. "But no matter what option we go with, the roads still have to be maintained, which takes the same funds available to pave them."

Brown added the commissioners are considering the option of re-rocking some of the little-used county roads that need work.

"There are so many roads in the county that need to be fixed, and it is difficult to determine priority at times with the limited funds," he said. "However, we are looking at using gravel on some county roads because it doesn't seem like an efficient use of county funds to pave a road being used by one, and in some cases, no residents."

One other aspect of being a commissioner is maintaining and updating county bridges, which Brown said he is proud of the work done in recent years.

"In the past few years, we have been able to replace some of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) bridges, and other bridges which have been in place for as much as 90-100 years, with flat cars," he told The Brazil Times. "With the new farm equipment being larger, we have had to widen some bridges so farmers wouldn't have to take the long way around to their land."

By utilizing flat cars to replace bridges, the commissioners essentially get three for the price of one.

"To put in a bridge would cost the county in the neighborhood of $180,000 a piece, where the flat car bridges are about $60,000 each," Brown said. "They are just as strong and we are able to get more 'bang for the buck' when replacing a bridge."

The commissioners began the year with $520,000 in the budget for new bridge work this year, which Brown said is funds which do come from property taxes.

Although Brown is pleased the work the commissioners have been able to do on bridges in recent years, he feels there is still room for improvement.

"None of us are engineers so when we are putting together specifications for the work, we may miss some things," he said. "Although we have done great so far, they can still be tweaked."

During the discussion, Brown outlined a few of the specific projects the commissioners are looking into when it comes to county roads, including:

* Resurface a portion of County Road 800 North, just east of State Road 59,

* Cut back some of the trees and brush on the corner of CR 100 E and CR 600 N to allow better visibility for drivers,

* Keep CR 200 E (Harmony Road) maintained because it is a "major artery" through the county, and

* Re-cut some ditches along county roadways to allow for better drainage during rains.

"Water is the biggest destroyer of roads," he said. "The rains have not been kind to us here in Clay County in recent years."

One major concern of residents recently has been the dangerous intersection of SR 59 and CR 700 N, which Brown said the commissioners have done their part to help.

"We have cut down the brush we are responsible for on CR 700 N," Brown said. "We are just waiting for the state to come in and cut down the section on their right-of-way along SR 59 to make it easier for residents to see cars coming out of the intersection, especially at night."

He acknowledged that a lot of the progress made in recent years on the roads and bridges would not be possible without the hard work of the Clay County Highway Department.

"Those guys do a great job and I have a lot of respect for them," he said. "There are about 22 guys working there with 12 trucks and they do what they can to maintain the county roads to the best of their ability, whether there is 10 inches of rain or snow, or it is a clear day."

Another aspect of the job which affects Brown personally is the presence of junk and trash, not just on properties, but dumped out along the roads as well.

"It really bothers me to see people dump things out anywhere," Brown said as he passed a sink laying just off of CR 200 W. "I've picked up all sorts of things ranging from couches to sacks of dirty diapers."

He said the commissioners have been attempting to enforce its junk and trash ordinance, which was approved in September 2007, but they are not being extremely stringent.

"When we send out the violation notices, the resident has 10 days to clean up the property," he said. "If they know it's going to take longer, they can purchase a 30-day extension from our legal counsel for $70. However, if we see they are making an honest attempt to clean up, we will work with them."

Despite all the struggles that comes with the title of being a commissioner, Brown admits the current trio of himself Jack Withers and Paul Sinders work in unison for the greater good of the county.

"Even though we cannot legally be together without an official meeting, we are only a phone call away to notify each other of a concern specific to our districts," he said.

In addition, Brown said with all the concerns within the county, the commissioners' focus at the current time is the status of the roads.

"Our priority is the roads and the chuck holes," he said. "We want everyone to have a nice road, but the problem is that the funding just isn't there."

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Raise gasoline tax. It will help with road maintenance AND encourage people to buy more fuel efficient vehicles. Win win situation.

As far as dumping, I would hope that any trash found with identifying labels on it such as addressed envelopes etc would cause charges to be brought up against perpetrator.

For several years adult diapers were being dumped all along SR 42 between 59 and 46. Then they were starting to appear on Miami Garden Road. Someone had obviously been using the roads as a dump on regular basis. Thankfully when the local tv stations finally picked up the story it seems to have ceased. Disgusting. If people witness this sort of thing they need to jot down license plate number and report it. Even if the charge doesn't stick, it the hassle will make the person think twice before doing it again.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Sat, Apr 4, 2009, at 7:55 AM

Jenny, a better solution to funding road work within the county would be to adopt a wheel tax.

A wheel tax cannot be used for anything but roads (IC 6-3.5-5-15)and is under local control from collection to expenditure.

The gasoline tax is collected and goes to the state, no county or other political subdivision has the authority to tax gasoline other than the state (IC 6-6-1.1-1204). It comes back to the counties on a complicated formula that sends part of it to the stateand some of it to counties, cities and towns.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Sat, Apr 4, 2009, at 11:13 AM

I would say most of the county roads are in bad condition. Junk and trash are a BIG problem. Lack of drainage during heavy rains has been a BIG problem too. I feel for the crews who have to work on a tight budget and try to set priorities. As a resident in the county, I know just to use common sense while driving on county roads.

-- Posted by BRAZILNUT on Sat, Apr 4, 2009, at 1:44 PM

Brono, did you mean a "bit" shoddy?

-- Posted by Anodos on Sat, Apr 4, 2009, at 3:08 PM

Do some research about how Denmark raised gas tax and over 10-15 years it drove people to become more innovative about solar/wind/geothermal power. They are now totally self sufficient. We on other hand are supporting both sides of the war on terror by our dependence on middle east oil. Now yes we can drill more here, but oil companies already HAVE leases off our shores as well as a huge oil deposit outside the national park in Alaska but they are just sitting on those leases as it isn't worth it to put money into harvesting the oil until the price is even higher than it is now. Eventually that too will run out. This isn't a democrat vs Republican thing. It's getting back to Americans being more innovative and advancing forward again instead of resting on the achievements of all that was accomplished in the 60's and earlier. I don't want to pay any more in taxes than the next guy but I realize that it takes money to keep our infrastructure in good shape and why not encourage American ingenuity by way of the pocket book as it seems that for some it is the only way that they will start to look at vehicles as transportation and not status symbol gas guzzlers. Europe and China have both surpassed us in both gasoline and diesel driven passenger cars when all we do is pay attention to what they look like and how big and powerful they look. NO. I'm not saying that everyone needs to go out today and sell their car and buy a smaller one. However when the next car purchase comes along, go to a smaller vehicle that has safety and fuel efficiency instead of what it looks like and how many doo dads it has that have nothing to do with transportation. We have let advertising rule our way of thinking and made us think that what they have is what we need and not let us decide what is need and what is superfluous fluff that is status only. Our last trade was to get rid of a car that gave 15 miles per gallon for one that gives almost 50 on highway. With those numbers I will still pay the same in taxes even if rates are raised and will reduce pollution and wear on roads due to lighter vehicle. It's like taxes on cigarettes. Except for the few who really need a bigger vehicle for business [and then they can deduct expenses from gross income], if they want to spend extra money on something that they don't really need, let them be taxed.

All this is connected and we need to work on it from many different angles and stop looking at one part of the issue as a stand alone problem.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Sat, Apr 4, 2009, at 8:25 PM

trash on roads in brazil is discusting

-- Posted by 2dogbob on Sun, Apr 5, 2009, at 7:06 AM


I have 4 kids so not too far behind you. we may actually be more similar than different in family statistics. However my 18 mile per gallon minivan [Ford Windstar] fails against the 38 mile per gallon mini van Renault makes [Espace]in France that also holds 7 people. [granted it is little bit tighter than the Ford Windstar I have but we still fit 6 of us and luggage for 25 days in it when traveling there several years ago. I would buy one here if I had the chance].

I am not talking about those who need larger vehicles for large families or for work. I am talking about huge gas guzzling SUV's etc when a smaller vehicle would suffice but doesn't have the status we give it in this country.

And...if you note I said when planning for next vehicle. Eventually your big children hauling car will grow old and your children will be off on their own. THEN is the time to think about cutting down on the size of the NEXT vehicle. That is all I am trying to encourage. Don't buy one when it's not needed.

Why would ANYONE need a Hummer for example?? Or a huge Cadillac? Or even Suburban if a minivan holds the same number of people.

You see I have thought about it. A lot. So don't be so defensive about it. If you are in your minivan with 5 kids, so be it. If you buy another one when your kids are up and gone, THAT is when I say tax away at those luxuries.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Sun, Apr 5, 2009, at 5:07 PM

Each time an issue is presented, Democrats, (Jenny ) jump in and want the people to pay more for their trash services, water, now she wants us to pay thru the nose to the Federal Government for a tax that would not benefit Clay County's roads, she is exemplary of what happens when a liberal, tax and spend party is in office, she would pull a banana out of a childs mouth if she thought it would further a cause the liberals are interested in. Thats about what it would amount to in Brazil, meet people where they are, look at life realistically, how they are going to eat for the rest of this day is whats on peoples minds here, you should really do without a few meals, to get a prospective on existence for the majority of residents, unless you're rolling in it and want to cover their share.

-- Posted by Edward Kane on Mon, Apr 6, 2009, at 8:00 AM

Edward Kane:

First of all who said what party I am associated with? If liberal means I want a better life for all people and not just myself, that's what I am. I am flawed like the rest of us but that is what I am working for. Second, many of our decisions on oil usage have further hurt the working poor of many countries and have promoted financial gains of taliban and other extremist groups. Third, I have gone to those cracker barrels and spoken out in favor of local income tax increases and against increasing sales tax as I do feel that the ones who make more money are better able to support our infrastructure financially. I also have spoken out against the 1, 2, 3 property tax as it is unconstitutional as our state constitution is written as it unfairly taxes one portion of the citizenship at higher rate than another. The state gov wanting to put it into our constitution is because they have doing something that is illegal by institutiing it in the first place. When the state was created our forefathers guarded against this sort of thing by putting it in constitution.

If we only continue to think about ourselves alone in this little community and forget that we are connected to a huge world out there we will not be able to survive as a community or as individuals in the world community as more than ever before it is all connected.

Clay County can no longer thrive as a stand alone entity. Our gas taxes and how much we get vs how much another location gets all plays into the worth of our infrastructure. It may even be too late for those who are to the point of only being able to struggle day to day to put food on the table. What must be done is to think ahead to be better able to put the community and the individuals in it in better position to function and thrive as part of the rest of the world. Thinking about only how to deal with today's problems will keep you in same position of always having to put out today's fires and being unprepared for the future. That is what got this community into this situation and to a good extent is what got the country into it's financial mess. Thinking about today and not planning for tomorrow. If you are stuck in the groove of only thinking about yourself and not about how you might improve the futures of those here in Clay county as well as those in the entire world with regard to everything from education to infrastructure to make life better for us as well as those of our brothers in distant places, you are refusing to be part of the solution. In spite of that, individuals will be out there who will plan for tomorrow and they will succeed while others, including some communities, will continue to be economically "poor". It's your choice. You can step up as well and think about how you and your brothers in this world will eat tomorrow or you can just focus on what is on the table today and that is all you will be able to do every day. Is that what you really want? It's our poor planning yesterday and our unwillingness to invest for tomorrow that got us here in first place. Haven't we learned the lesson yet that if we continue to do the same we will not get any better? Doesn't seem liberal or conservative. Just ignorant financial planning. Would you Edward not put something away for future if you have it? We need then to use what we have to plan for the future and not just worry about what we have to spend on things for today. That is recipe for future that is no different than our present situation. Locally, Individually, or world wide. you may not have to foot the bill, but your kids and grandkids will. Some people's grandkids already are because they didn't look to the future either. Those are the ones who can only think about the food on the table today.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Mon, Apr 6, 2009, at 8:49 AM

Just when are they going to fix pinckley street. I have traveled this road for the last 20 years and they have done nothing to it. the city or county. enough is enough. Is there a shortcut to the Armory?

-- Posted by Katrina on Mon, Apr 6, 2009, at 7:06 PM


Label away if you like but I've also read Atlas Shrugged...You might try to classify me by the way I come down in certain instances but can not know my position on all things by them. While I beleive that those who can should help the government's infrastructure, there is a need for limits, especially to entitlements provided by those who are taxed or some will not have the impetus to gain ground for themselves. It is all a balancing act. One that I'm not sure can be performed correctly by anyone which is why we have checks and balances...and debate.

It is plainly not true that I feel only the rich are taxed. As a matter of fact I spoke out against the increase of the sales tax as I felt it was regressive and taxed the poorer folks unfairly, but alas it went through.

I am NOT pro abortion and don't know where you got that one. I won't even respond to several other things you seem to think I am in favor of as you have no idea where I stand on those issues and are quite presumptuous to think you do.

As all of us are, I am a bit more complex than a response to one or two subjects discussed in an article in paper.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Tue, Apr 7, 2009, at 6:21 PM

Wow! You guys argue worse than my siblings! Fix the roads right the first time, then the holes won't become bumps that then mess up peoples tires and cars. I think more money gets wasted on "repairing" the roads more than anything. In my opinion raising on taxes on anything in this economy is not smart....my water bill went from about fifty dollars to one hundred and forty!! Ridiculous. I don't see how people especially with my income can make it.

-- Posted by tabbie0658 on Mon, Apr 13, 2009, at 9:59 PM

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