News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 29, 2013

Road repairs concern farmers

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — County road repairs, bridge widths and taxes were all questions farmers raised to county officials in a round table discussion Monday.

It was the first public round table discussion from the Vigo County Council, held at the Farm Bureau building at 4803 S. Seventh St. in Terre Haute. Council members included Bill Thomas, D-2nd, Rick Burger, D-at large, Kathy Miller, D-3rd, Mark Bird, D-at large, and Mike Morris, R-4th. Vigo County commissioners, Mike Ciolli and Brad Anderson also attended.

“What is the forecast of your revenue stream for the year?” asked farmer Terry Hayhurst.

Thomas, council president, said the county has been hit with a $300 million reduction in assessed value. However, the council previously took steps when property tax caps were initiated, including no pay raises, a hiring freeze and a spousal carve-out on insurance.

Those steps have helped the county to meet a reduction in revenue, he said. “This council made those tough decisions, and Vigo County is in pretty good financial standing at this time,” Thomas said.

Farmer Leonard Stultz said he thinks taxes he pays into a taxing district for the Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field are too high. “It hit me hard. I think maybe shut it (the airport) down, as I don’t see anything coming around. There is not a great deal going on out there other than the military,” he said.

Burger said the airport is part of the county’s economic development segment offering air, rail and interstate. Anderson said the military will expand at the airport over the next few years, providing a large economic impact to the county.

Hayhurst also asked about a county wheel tax and state fuel taxes to pay for roads. Farmer Jeff Gormong said fuel tax revenues are declining with more fuel-efficient vehicles and as drivers cut back in a tough economy. That will reduce funding for road repairs, he said.

Commissioner Ciolli said the council approved the purchase of new road equipment, such as a paver and new grader, that is saving the county money on road repairs.

Several farmers said they have noticed improvements in roads and asked officials to continue to work to improve roads.

Gormong and others asked commissioners to ensure that fiber optic lines are correctly buried and are also kept at the proper height when placed above ground.

One farmer suggested the county ensure that buried lines are within a set distance from a county road, as often lines are buried at varying lengths from a road. That will cause problems in the future if other fiber optic lines are buried to service rural areas.

Others asked that future bridges be wider, as some existing wooden bridges along county roads are 17 feet in width, not wide enough for some farming equipment. The county has 187 bridges.

“It was a good session. It is getting their ear,” said farmer Steve Marrs.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.

greninger@tribstar.com.