County Road And Bridge Expenditures - Ludicrous

By Jon A. Brake

Go ahead and laugh. It is funny. It is also amusing. Not the Road and Bridge Capital Improvement Program which is worth more than $28 million. That is serious.

What is laughable is that the Riley County Commission want the taxpayers to keep the half-cent Sale Tax going to pay for Road and Bridge repairs.

Here is what the Commissions say about the half-cent Sales Tax: "The revenue is estimated to be $2 million per year and would be used to improve roads and bridges and to bring jobs to Riley County. The Road and Bridge Advisory Board has prioritized the greatest needs of roads for all parts of the county and community leaders will determine how to allocate the $1 million generated per year for new jobs. "

If you believe that a Florida Real Estate salesman will be calling on you tonight.

First of all the County Commission did not want to give the City of Manhattan fifty-two percent of the Sales Tax for Economic Development. For months the County Commissioners were going to keep all of the money. They did until they were told that the City and Chamber would oppose the Sales Tax unless the County gave up money for Economic Development.

But, what about the Roads and Bridges? Are they in bad shape as the Commissioners are saying? The answer is "yes."

Does Riley County need a half-cent sales tax to repair the roads and bridges? The answer is "NO." Riley County citizens have already paid to have the roads and bridges repaired. The Riley County Commission (the past six Commissions) has chosen not to spend the money on road and bridge repairs.

The figures to the right are all CIP (Capital Improvement Project) funded by the Riley County Commission, starting in 1995. The Commissioners have approved more than $4 million for projects but only two are for the repair of roads and bridges. In 1998 the County spent $65,901.57 to repair the Wagner Bridge (the state matched the funds) and $100,000 to put a 2" asphalt overlay on Wildcat Creek Road. They also put $63,265 of asphalt on two roads in 1999 paid out of another fund. According to the County records they only spent $226,166.57 to repair roads and bridges in six years. Why?

Each year the Public Works Department provides a list of roads and bridges that need to be repaired. The Commission makes out a budget that will include money to make repairs. They publish the budget and the citizens are taxed accordingly.

And then each year the County Commissioners choose not to spend the money on repairing roads and bridges. They use the money for other things. The Commissioners spent $913,455.40 to remodel the first floor of the Courthouse Annex. The project started out to be $200,000 but someone made a mistake. Now the Commissioners want to remodel the second and third floors. Both floors were remodeled less that ten-years ago. They also want to remodel the HTX building but that building was remodeled seven years ago by the previous owner.

The Commissioners are also spending millions to move the County Shops from Anderson Ave. to Marlatt Ave. Look at the photos and the R&B CIP on pages 8 and 9.