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County has no excuse for lack of paving plan
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 2, 2000
The Hernando County Commission has broken a promise to the public by not having a detailed, comprehensive list of all the county roads it intends to repave with money from the extra gas taxes it has been collecting since 1997.
Furthermore, now that the commission is aware of that shortcoming and has not directed its staff to immediately complete such a master plan, it is continuing to undermine its credibility with an already skeptical public.
When the 3-cent increase was extended to 2006 in September 1999, the commission gave clear instructions to its staff that it wanted frequent updates on which roads had been repaved, and a detailed schedule of all the other roads that were slated for work. Now, after the recent dismissal of the county's pavement management coordinator, James Eason, some commissioners have learned no such plan exists. Some also have expressed frustration that it may take the staff an additional three to six months to prepare one.
Eason may have been part of that problem, but turnover at the top of county government is largely responsible for this oversight. When former County Administrator Bonnie Dyga resigned in August to escape the lack of support for her ideas and interference by some commissioners, the program lost momentum. When the gas tax was extended in September, the responsibility was assumed by her temporary replacement, Assistant County Administrator Richard Radacky, who held the job until the commission hired Paul McIntosh in early March.
Those transitions, no doubt, hindered planning and implementation of the program, which was overseen by County Engineer Charles Mixson and Eason. But that should not have been the case. In fact, a detailed schedule of street repairs existed in earlier (and unsuccessful) campaigns to convince voters to increase the sales tax to pay for road repairs. It should not have been a major undertaking to simply review that list, re-evaluate the conditions of the roads and assign time lines.
But ultimately the fault lies with commissioners for not closely monitoring what they routinely refer to as their "No. 1 priority."
The commission should show it actually means what it says by instructing its staff to complete the list immediately, even if it requires extra work or workers. Their pledge to the public, especially on this subject, is not something with which they can afford to toy.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.