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From potholes to projects, rain putting strain on road department

Rainstorms have been a prominent feature of both winter and summer weather over the past few years and the fallout means area roads, already a subject for continual complaint, are getting even worse. While Nye County Public Works is doing all it can to tackle maintenance and repairs, department director Tom Bolling said it’s been a real struggle to keep pace with the constant demand.

“Last winter, all of Nye County was absolutely decimated by rain, which caused a massive amount of damage, not only immediate damage but also long-term damage, to the paved and gravel road network,” Bolling told Nye County commissioners during the board’s Feb. 6 meeting. “We had a hurricane, which didn’t bring the flooding expected… but it did bring at least a day’s worth of steady drizzle that came at a time when the road department was already struggling, throughout the county… The current weighted pavement condition index for Nye County roads is 58, which is classified as fair. However, the readings to determine this were collected in 2022, before the massive rains we had in 2023.”

Water, Bolling explained, is an enemy of roadways, undermining them and causing potholes to emerge.

“All that water, when it gets underneath the asphalt, when it gets under the chip seal, it makes it squishy. When the mud gets squishy, that’s what creates the potholes,” Bolling said. “That’s why we’ve had 1,230 complaints this year, versus 800 the year before. It’s because of the potholes.”

As the weather continues to bring more rain to the valley, the roads will only become more pothole prone.

“That’s the one bad thing we’re going to see on a lot of our major roads, Thousandaire as an example, with this rain, it’s going to make these potholes worse and worse and worse. And we’re already struggling to keep up with them, period,” Bolling asserted.

On a more positive note, he said there was some improvement in the flooding that is regularly seen on Blagg Road north of Basin Avenue, an intersection that was redone last year as part of the Basin Avenue improvement project.

“When I went uptown at 10 a.m. (Monday), on Blagg there was a lake from right in front of the old dairy (near Gemini Drive and Blagg Road) to the corner. When I went back that way at 2 p.m., the lake was gone. That means the drainage we put in at Blagg and Basin is working. Yes, it backed up with the amount of rain we got but, we are slowly fixing the problem,” Bolling said.

However, he cautioned that the remaining issues will not be dealt with easily.

“It’s going to take a long time to get through all these problems, because there are lots of them,” Bolling added. “We are currently and have been cleaning up from these storms ever since. We will continue to do this until we get a handle on deferred maintenance, which means no large projects, no beginning anything that we have to do internally.”

Bolling noted that this does not include chip sealing, which will continue as scheduled maintenance.

According to the budget status report provided with the presentation, Nye County Public Works began the fiscal year with a budget of about $12 million and through the first six months of the fiscal year, it has spent roughly 73% of that amount, or about $6 million in expenditures and $2.8 million in encumbrances.

During the meeting, commissioner Donna Cox also offered some thoughts for residents who may take issue with the condition of local roadways.

“The only way we can repair the roads is through taxes and grants, and we’re trying to get all the grants we can but nobody wants their taxes raised. So you ask them, what are you willing to accept… If you don’t mind your taxes being raised, you can have wonderful roads. But if you don’t want to your taxes being raised then you kind of have to learn to bear with us,” Cox stated, adding, “We only have a certain amount of materials and money to work with, so we do the best we can.”

Nye County residents will have a decision to make in this regard during the 2024 general election, during which voters will cast their ballots in favor or against the establishment of a Nye County-specific diesel tax of 5-cents per gallon, funds from which would go directly toward the local road department.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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