Friday, July 28, 2006

Davis County Clipper: County seeks cash to combat ‘hole’ thing

First in a series

FRUIT HEIGHTS — “They’re worn out.” That was the short answer, Tuesday, from veteran County Commissioner Dannie McConkie, speaking about the state of Davis County’s flood control facilities. That includes everything from concrete pipes and channels used to move and control stream and other water flows, to a need for flood control basins, to fixing sink holes that have developed over the years. That’s why county commissioners are considering a property tax hike. The “average” home in the county is valued at $171,000 for the 2007 budget year. Of the $1,150 “average” property tax, about $150 goes to county coffers. The additional proposed tax is estimated at $13 for flood control and $12 for senior citizen needs. Since 2004, commissioners have told residents about $35 a year will have to be added to the tax bill to cover maintenance and operation of the new jail addition.

Preliminary figures indicate that overall, the county portion of a homeowner’s bill would increase about $60 a year, says County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings.

“We (county commission, officials) have obligations” to fix the problem, McConkie told the Clipper. “This is really a pitch for responsible taxation, to offer us a solution. I think it (tax hike for fix-up) needs to be done now.”

County Public Works Director Tom Smith underlines what has been widely reported locally and nationally: the cost of construction materials has skyrocketed.

“The cost was $40 for concrete, now it’s $110. Steel has doubled, and the cost of asphalt is out of sight: it was $30, now it’s $45,” he said.

“We have pipes (now) with no bottoms,” due to erosion from the constant, often heavy, flow of water, sand and gravel through often inadequately built channels,” Smith said.

“The need exists. The urgency exists. It doesn’t matter who the commissioners are,” repairs need to be done as soon as possible, McConkie said emphatically.

“For five years we had a varying degree of problems that have escalated. We’ve held off, said no (to a property tax hike). The picture (of need) has been there for quite some time,” Rawlings said.

“It was a fresh problem (1983 floods) when we put (many of the facilities) in. Now we can’t stay comfortable, leave it as is for another 50 years. We could have another 100-year storm at any time,” McConkie said. “It seems prudent to fix it now.”

“They’ve worn out (facilities),” he continued. “I think they (county officials at the time) did what they could with limited resources, on an austere budget.”

The so-called “fix-it” list covers the gamut, from Howard’s Slough in the county’s far northwest corner to 2600 South where Bountiful, North Salt Lake and Woods Cross meet.

The fix-up is conservatively estimated at $40 million over the next 20 years, or just above $2 million a year.

Smith cited needs on 2600 South as only one of dozens of examples. It would cost upwards of $700,000 to replace 1,000 feet of underground conduit with Davis County Public Works crews doing the work.

“We’ve got to replace a 30-inch concrete pipe (now minus a bottom) with a 36-inch; and since it’s under curb and gutter, we have to replace sidewalk, etc., have traffic control,” Smith said trying to explain the magnitude of such a fix-up on motorists.

The work would start at 500 West and go west to the I-15 northbound on-ramp.

“We have to expand it (in addition to repair needs) due to growth (to the east),” Smith said. “The pipe is too small. Pushing more water through there increases the velocity.

“If we start getting some sink holes in that roadway, we could start having cars run into them,” he said of potential problems.

Sink holes have developed elsewhere, including at least one that nearly “swallowed” a vehicle in a Bountiful area parking lot.

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