By Mark Waite
A specific list of roads that will be addressed if voters pass county ballot question No. 1 on Tuesday to raise the local gas tax three cents hasn’t been prepared.
But two members of the Nye County Regional Transportation Commission and the public works director couldn’t identify alternate sources of financing to fix local roads if the measure fails.
County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen, an RTC board member, said he voted against the ballot question two years ago, which failed by a margin of 78.15 percent to 21.85 percent. This time he’s been an avid supporter.
“I voted against it in the last election because I was afraid like everybody else the money would just go to administration,” Schinhofen said. “I rewrote it with the RTC, because I’m on the RTC.”
If passed, the ballot question would increase funding for the RTC for fiscal years 2012-13 through 2015-16 from $1.25 million to $1.36 million, an increase of $112,426.
The argument for passage states, “without positive action on this item road conditions will continue to deteriorate and needed repair, maintenance and improvements will be further delayed or not be able to be done.”
The argument for passage concludes, “every penny of the tax would be spent on Nye County road projects.”
Schinhofen said the money wouldn’t be spent on resuming the chip seal program, which was discontinued this year; it also wouldn’t go toward salaries or another piece of equipment. However, a Jan. 17, 2012 RTC agenda item asked the board to consider presenting to county commissioners another advisory ballot question for road fund money and added there are approximately 20 miles in Pahrump to be chip sealed and two to five miles in Amargosa Valley.
Schinhofen said the money from the increased gas tax has to go to roads that are as much as 50 years old. There is also a sunset clause, he said. The question asks to increase the local gas tax from four cents to seven cents for three years.
Over 30 percent of the money will be paid by out of county residents traveling along Highway 95, Schinhofen said.
Public Works Director Dave Fanning would have to present a list of roads for consideration if it passes, Schinhofen said. He could recite a list of major arterial roads in Pahrump that are badly in need of repair, such as Homestead Road south of Gamebird Road, Mesquite Avenue, Wilson Road, other portions of Blagg Road and Manse Road.
“It’s going to be about 90 cents a week to my family,” Schinhofen said. “In 25 years we’ve never raised this tax. We have the second most roads to Clark County and a tenth of their budget.”
The ballot question states Nye County has 2,716 miles of maintained roads but gas sales have dropped from 23.28 million gallons in 2005 to 20.9 million gallons by 2009 due to the improved fuel economy of newer vehicles.
The RTC budget for this fiscal year estimates $824,292 would be collected from the four-cent gas tax. Of that amount, $600,000 was budgeted for gravel road maintenance.
Fanning said he doesn’t have a list which roads would be targeted first if the ballot question passes.
“What I’m going to do if it does pass is put together a list of streets they should look at, at the RTC level. Those would be based on the condition of roads,” Fanning said.
He added, “This money in the gas tax is literally for the entire county. So it’s not just for Pahrump. Every road will have to be considered. That’s a reason why to wait for when the vote comes in yes or not to put that list together because it’s going to be a big task to put together a list of roads that are failing in Nye County.”
RTC Chairman Cameron McRae said he’d like to invite the public to comment on what streets should be given priority if the ballot question passes.
“It’s the gas tax money and that already has statutory limitations on what it can and can’t be used for,” McRae said.
Some development areas, like Homestead Road, have impact fee money that have a time frame in which they should be spent, Fanning said.
A Streets and Highways Capital Improvement Plan for 2006 to 2015 recommended engineers do design work for Charleston Park Avenue, Homestead Road and Manse Road in that order. Homestead Road was later bumped up in priority by the capital improvements plan advisory committee, which makes recommendations on spending impact fee money.
An extra $112,000 in gas taxes may not go far when it comes to road improvements.
The county awarded a contract to Wulfenstein Construction for $3.17 million for the Homestead Road project last year between Highway 160 and Gamebird Road that included intersection improvements at Highway 160. Wulfenstein got a $1.057 million contract last March to reconstruct Dandelion Road from Highway 160 to Calvada Boulevard.
Wulfenstein was awarded a $2.36 million contract to repair Blagg Road, after sinkholes erupted and lift stations collapsed following heavy rains in December 2010.
Impact fee money paid by developers went toward much of the Homestead Road repair job; the impact fee ordinance allocated $1,298 of the $1,961 collected for construction of a new residence toward streets and highways.
County commissioners put a moratorium on impact fee collection this year in an attempt to attract business; it expires Dec. 31.
Nye County hopes to recoup the Blagg Road repair project through litigation.