Franklin County officials said Thursday that they are putting the controversial Pave the County program on hold.
A flat economy and the need to maintain existing roads were cited as the reasons to cease additional paving of gravel roads.
This means roads that were on schedule to be converted from gravel to pavement will not have that work done for the time being.
The county has spent about $21.8 million on the Pave the County program, according to county officials.
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said he hopes the residents who live on roads affected by the highway department cuts will understand the county’s financial situation.
He said he does not know if the county will ever get around to paving those roads, adding that it depends on revenue streams.
In March, the county highway department reported that some gravel roads would be prepared this year for future paving. But now that work will no longer be done, County Engineer Joe Feldmann said Thursday.
This eliminates projects that were scheduled for Big Branch Road on the west edge of the county, Rye Creek Road in the southeast and Providence Road in the southwest. The original plan was to build up the bases of those roads to get them ready for future paving.
Any changes to roadwork must be taken up with the county commissioners, Franklin County Highway Administrator Eva Gadcke said. She added that she will follow the commissioners’ directions.
The new direction that the highway department is headed in has not resulted in a tense relationship between the county commission and Gadcke, Brinker said.
The “bottom line” is that Gadcke does a good job with “what she has to deal with,” Brinker said.
The commissioners are thankful for the job Gadcke does, Brinker said, adding that she has the best interests of the people she serves at heart.
Gadcke was out of the office Thursday until next week.
Brinker said he thinks what is being experienced is a change of direction from the previous county commission. There is education taking place on both sides between the highway department and the county commissioners, Brinker said.
The decision to cut some projects was desired by the county commission and the highway department, Brinker added.
Can’t Pave All Roads
There is no way that all of the county’s gravel roads will ever be paved, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said.
He said that was never the intent of the Pave the County program, which became controversial after some of the roads were improperly built. Some gravel roads can never be paved because of their location and topography, Griesheimer said.
But Gadcke said the original concept of the Pave the County program was to surface all of the gravel roads.
Gadcke agreed that it would be hard to justify spending money paving roads with very low traffic counts, even though she would like to.
About 128 miles of gravel roads remain in the county, according highway department officials. Gadcke said about 135 miles of roads were converted from gravel to paved.
No funding is available at this time to finish the road paving program, a news release from the county commission states.
“Under the ‘Pave the County’ program a dedicated revenue source was not established prior to its start,” the release states.