(BLOOMFIELD) - Greene County Officials are getting some flak because residents say commissioners always get the roads in front of their homes paved.
Nick Schneider of the Greene County Daily World reports that the latest to catch some "heat" about a planned paving project are District 3 County Commissioner Rick Graves and Greene County Highway Superintendent Brent Murray, who formerly served on the county council.
County Attorney Marilyn Hartman, says there is nothing illegal about paving a road, regardless of whose house is on that street.
The decision to pave roads that run past the homes of those two county officials hasn't set well with some local residents. Many contacted the Greene County Dailey World posting comments on the newspaper's website, www.gcdailyworld.com. Those remarks question the logic and ethics of the planned paving projects.
The commissioners awarded contracts earlier this week for 11 paving projects -- including the two roads in question.
Milestone Construction Company, located in eastern Greene County, was awarded a $237,144.75 contract to pave the two roads - CR 700W and CR 175N near Commissioner Graves' home in rural Switz City.
CR 175 is now chip and sealed, while CR 700W is a gravel road off of State Road 54.
Milestone was also awarded a contract to pave a portion of County Road 500S at a cost of $103,980 that runs past the home of Murray, south of Linton.
Last week, Graves said the projects would be undertaken as money becomes available.
Friday, he commented that there was enough money in the Wheel Tax collected fund to proceed with the paving projects.
Countywide, about $750,000 is collected each year in Wheel Tax and the money is divided evenly between the three commissioner's districts.
Each commissioner has the authority to spend the money at their own discretion, Graves explained.
The first-term commissioner said he did no blacktop paving in District 3 last year, instead opting to do ditching and preparation work to get ready to pave several roads this year. By so doing, he was able to encumber some of his Wheel Tax allocation for this year's jobs list.
By way of explanation, Graves said there is some history behind his decision.
First, those lists are made up a year ahead of time with work already begun for paving projects that will be done in 2013.
He also explained that for about 20 years, CR 700W was heavily used by trucks hauling from a now-closed surface coal mine.
The road was bonded and when the mine shutdown, the company did provide the county with money to repair and blacktop the road. However, the commissioners seated at the time opted to gravel the road and use the paving money somewhere else.
Since then, at various times the neighbors who live on and use the road have unsuccessfully asked the commissioners to pave the road.
CR 175E was chip and sealed three years ago.
Graves said he's been talked to about the roads since taking office in 2011 and decided to follow through with a promise that was made to the people who live in that area years ago.
Graves, a Republican, also defended the use of a hired contractor to do the blacktopping work saying the county can get it done on contract for about $3 a ton more than the actual cost to buy it and lay it with county highway department personnel.
"It's nonsense to think you can do it with county workers cheaper," he stated.
Commissioner's president Steve Lindsey, who represents District 2, says he's heard a little bit of "coffee shop talk" about Graves' and Murray's road on the paving list, but hasn't been contacted personally about it.
The Democrat reiterated that each district commissioner has the authority to decide what roads are paved in their own district and generally those decisions aren't questioned.
"Each commissioner takes care of his own district. I'll talk about mine," Lindsey replied when asked about the road work being done in District 3. "Basically, the commissioners work with their road bosses (foremans) and figure out what they want. That's how we do that."
Lindsey, who has State Road 231/57 running in front of his residence, added, "Unless it's a road in front of somebody's house, somebody is going to complain. I wish you could blacktop all of the roads, but you've only got so much money and we try to do the best we can with it."
District 1 Commissioner Kermit Holtsclaw said he's heard some grumbling about the two roads, but agreed with his two fellow commissioners, the decision on what roads to pave in a particular district is the decision of the commissioner in that district.
"I had people say they've checked those roads and why are we doing them. We've got some much worse roads," Holtsclaw, a Democrat, noted.
Holtclaw, who had his own road paved in front of his residence in 2009 when he first took office, acknowledged there is nothing illegal about it.
He pointed out his Center Township road hadn't been improved for more than 20 years.
To improve the situation, Holtsclaw would like to see the commissioners tap into Major Moves money received from the state that's been invested by the county since 2007.
"We need to spend some of that money. You wouldn't believe some of the roads that we have out here," Holtsclaw said. "I've said it before, when you need money for the highway department, you don't have it. But anything else that comes up they seem to have it (the money). That really aggravates me. That is frustrating," Holtsclaw said.
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