Residents endorse road improvements
The long discussed Carbonville Road project finally took it's first legitimate step into reality last Thursday night when property owners who attended a meeting at the Carbon County Courthouse unanimously voted by a show of hands to go ahead with the engineering study on the road improvements.
"This is what Carbon County people are all about," stated CCommissioner Mike Milovich as the meeting was breaking up. "We have had other meetings like this on other things and while people always question what we are trying to do, once we talk with them and explain it they are very reasonable and down to earth."
Since a letter signed by Commissioner Bill Krompel went out a couple of weeks ago, rumors around town had described the proposed project in a number of ways.
The undercurrents indicated that many residents were wary of the project and many said they just didn't want it to happen.
But if that was true, the information given out at the meeting must have assuaged their worries to the point where in the end, the near 70 people attending supported the project.
The program began with Krompel describing the need for the project and how it could come about if residents wished it to.
"There are 450 miles of roads in the county," Krompel told the gathering. "About 150 miles of them are paved, 150 are gravel and 150 are dirt. Not counting the coal haul roads, Carbonville Road is our busiest one."
Krompel went on to explain the concept the county had for the road and how it could be funded.
"Once you've heard this presentation, if you don't want these improvements, let us know and we will work toward other road needs," he concluded.
The county has already secured some grant money for the project. Part of that money is for utility relocations that will need to be done which total $440,000, and another $150,000 for engineering.
Creamer and Noble Engineering has already been secured to plan the project and were there with a presentation about the details.
"The original road was built many years ago and of course as many of you know, was the old Highway 6 before the by-pass road was built," explained Jim Snyder of the engineering firm. "In it's present form, the road is only up to the federal highways standards of the 1950s. It is basically substandard by todays criterion."
Snyder showed a depiction of how the road would look if it were built as the firm envisions it. There would be two, 11 foot traffic lanes with a 12 foot center turn lane. There would be six foot shoulders on each side.
On the east side, there would be a two and a half foot curb and gutter. On the west side of the road, there would also be a similar gutter as well as a five foot sidewalk.
Snyder told the group that there are a number of things that need to change to make the redesign eligible for federal highway funds, which is what the county is figuring on to fund the project.
First of all ,there can be no obstructions within 10 to 15 feet of the roadway. Right now, there are some places where poles and structures exist within five feet of the road.
Power poles are the biggest problem in this area of concern. The new project would relocate all the poles on the west side of the road, because once the right of way is secured from the railroad for improvements on the east side, the poles can no longer be located there.
Snyder pointed out that the sidewalk portion of the project would not be covered by federal funding, so the county would have to come up with a way to take care of that.
Recently, county employees staked the line where the back of the sidewalk would rest so residents could evaluate how their propertiew would be affected on the entire three mile project.
"For some people, this affects their property more than others," explained Snyder. "But we will replace fences that must be torn down and if you have irrigation now, you will have it after we are done. We will also put in concrete driveway accesses where every driveway is in place now."
As for a time table of design and construction, Snyder told the group the company was aiming to have the engineering done by April of next year and then the county could request the funding needed to do the entire project.
He thought some of the construction could start as early as next summer, but the bulk of it would be done in 2004 with some stretching into 2005.
Also at the meeting was Reed Noble, one of the partners in the firm. He told the group that the main reasons for the meeting was to see how residents felt about the project and to secure right-of-ways for it.
"We cannot even start on this until we have every right-of-way along the project in hand," stated Noble. "We have the railroad whom we are negotiating with on the east side and nearly 70 property owners on the west side who need to give us permission before anything can be done."
He also presented the funding scenario for the project. Besides the money already secured the actual construction funds that would need to be applied for include $3,197,800,000 for the actual construction.
The non-eligible for federal funds part of the project would cost $230,000 and the county would have to come up with a matching fund of $277,200. That means Carbon County would contribute a little over a half million dollars.
It was pointed out by using this type of funding, the county would not have to form a special service district and that property taxes would not go up to build the project.
Noble, however, warned the group that because of the increased value the road project will lend to properties in the area, their assessments could rise.
Milovich also pointed out that with improved roads, often comes development, which may increase the numbers and types of homes built in the area. That could also raise property values.
Following the presentations, the meeting was opened for questions. During the next 45 minutes, county officials and the engineers answered more than 30 inquiries from the audience.
The major topics that were covered at the meeting included the following:
The difference between easements and rights of way was explained. The county is asking for rights of way from the stakes that have been placed to the middle of the road.
Some of the property lines in the area are somewhat jumbled. Therefore, some residents own right to the middle of the existing road and others do not own the property in front of their homes near the road.
The easement the county is requesting is a 10 foot path behind the sidewalk for the placement of utilities.
Some residents were concerned that they did not have 10 feet left behind the proposed sidewalk for an easement.
Milovich explained that an easement is different than a right of way in that if the county or a utility company must tear something down or remove something, it must be returned to the previous condition after the construction is completed.
The question of who was responsible for snow removal on the sidewalks came into question.
Generally, the removal of snow on sidewalks in residential areas falls on the property owner, even though they don't really own the sidewalk. However, in the area of Carbonville Road there are a number of property owners who will have long expanses of sidewalk, up to a quarter mile.
While there was a lot of discussion on the issue, there was no resolution regarding the liability for the walkways.
The question of drainage also come up.
Residents pointed out that right now much of the water runs off the road into irrigation ditches and onto lawns.
Noble pointed out that in the design that will be done, that issue will be addressed but right now, since that hasn't been done, there is no way to tell where the water will drain too.
In many places on Carbonville Road, there are ditches and risers that are used for irrigation water. Residents wondered what would happen with those improvements.
Noble pointed out that most of it would have to be piped with provisions made to release the water where it is needed.
Questions arose then about piping the whole thing and Milovich brought up the fact that the canal in that area is in private hands and that the county water conservation manager has been working with them to do just that with some money from the federal government. How soon that could be done or if the canal company even wants to do it for sure is still up in the air.
Some people wondered about where the counties match of a half a million dollars will come from. Milovich told the group that the county already had the money put away, so it wouldn't be a problem coming up with the funding.
Some residents were concerned that the improvements on the road might affect the school bus service. Krompel said that he would contact the school district about the situation and ask them not to change service because of the road project.
Some business owners along the route were concerned about access to their properties. A few have large trucks pulling in and out constantly and driveway accesses alone would not be large enough to accommodate those vehicles.
The engineers assured these businesses that a "low curb" would be used in those areas where large vehicle accesses were needed. That allows vehicles to pull through the gutters without having to bump up over curbs.
Utility questions also arose. Some wondered why the power and utilities couldn't all go underground, but Noble explained that to place power underground costs four times as much as to put it overhead.
The question of fire hydrants also came up with residents telling officials that in some areas there are hardly any hydrants at all.
Krompel told the group that fire hydrants are part of what the Price River Water Improvement District took care of.
"The county is not in the water business," he told the group. "However, the county will pay for the hydrants if PRWID will put them in."
Questions on mailboxes and street lights were also broached by the audience.
Nobles told the group that provisions for proper mailbox placement will be made within the project.
The street light issue has been an ongoing one for years on Carbonville Road. Some residents wondered if, instead of a sidewalk, street lights could be put in.
Krompel said that was an option, but nothing definitive was discussed on the issue.
Another concern some residents had was that their homes and buildings wouldn't meet set back codes if the road was reconstructed the way it is proposed.
Noble said that any pre-existing buildings would be grandfathered in so residents would not have to make changes.
Some residents were also concerned that if the road is improved, Price city might want to annex the area.
"The codes say that if you want to be excluded from an annexation, you can be," explained Milovich. "There is an example in Spring Canyon where a homeowner didn't want to be part of a Helper annexation and that home is still part of the county. It is a county island within Helper."
After the residents supported the project by a raise of hands, the engineers and county officials had the paperwork necessary for property owners or sign off rights of way and easements, and most residents came up and signed the necessary documents to give the go ahead for the project.