It didn’t take long for the new commission to start offering excuses as to why the county roads are in such poor condition. And their excuse gives them an ongoing out for why they don’t address the under-staffing at the road department.
SRS funding has not been continued by Congress (gotta cut that federal government spending after all) so that leaves the county about $725,000 short in the budget.
A few things about this situation…
1) Last summer, then-Senator Walsh’s staff came to meet with the commission. They discussed Walsh’s desire to pass legislation making that funding permanent. The commission didn’t express any support for this move, nor did they offer to write a letter showing the importance of passing this legislation for the county.
2) When then Representative Daines’ staff came through, they didn’t mention this funding at all in issues they were concerned about. They could have asked Daines’ staff to express their desire to have him sponsor similar legislation in the U.S. House which would have helped get the funding re-approved. Instead they did nothing.
3) They’ve known this funding problem was coming. So did they do everything they could to get the roads in great shape before the winter conditions hit? No they didn’t. They left the Road Department horribly understaffed throughout the summer. So during the best time to build and repair roads, virtually nothing got done because there just weren’t enough people to do the work. They didn’t start hiring additional crew until September – missing most of the road work season.
4) Will this new funding shortfall result in more layoffs in the Road Department? That was the excuse they used last time to lay off crew members. It’s no secret the commissioners are not fans of the road workers union. This may be how they finally break the union and contract out the work to private companies.
5) Expect your taxes to go up. It seems to be the way this commission handles all their problems. Settle a lawsuit? Raise taxes… Feds cut spending like we advocated? Raise taxes… Whether they finally hire the right number of workers for the Road Department or contract the work out, they’ll likely raise taxes to fund it. This from a Republican commission.
Roads are the number 1 issue for the county commission. Or they should be. But this cut to SRS funding is how they’ll excuse their lack of efforts in improving the county’s valuable infrastructure.