SALADO — The Board of Aldermen voted against a proposal to spend about $140,000 to repair Chisholm Trail during its Thursday night meeting.
The proposal, which was put out for bid in April, would have repaired and upgraded Chisholm Trail from an area near the intersection with O.W. Lowery Drive to the Smith Bluff Road intersection, a distance of about 0.2 miles.
The proposal called for the removal of 10 inches of pavement, asphalt and base, and replacing it with 8 inches of crushed limestone base, two inches of asphalt and constructing a 12-inch curb on either side of the street. The lowest bid came from Lone Star Grading & Materials, a Belton-based contractor. Despite a strong desire from many residents to see the village undertake an infrastructure improvement plan, the proposal found few supporters on the board. “We are going to spend $140,000, which will wipe out our road budget for the year, to fix a road that isn’t that bad,” said Mayor Pro Tem Fred Brown.
Brown cited a previous road condition study, voluntarily performed by village residents, which found Salado had roads in far worse condition than Chisholm Trail. The 3-2 vote, with only Alderwoman Amber Preston Dankert and Alderman Michael McDougal supporting the measure, came after a passionate discussion in the board’s afternoon workshop.
Village Administrator Jim Reed presented the board with the estimated costs of doing basic maintenance for all of the village’s 68 miles of road.
Reed estimated that simply covering the village’s existing roadways with a layer of sealcoat — a liquid applied to asphalt to protect it from oxidation, the elements and traffic — would cost about $1.4 million.
Reed argued that to prevent decrepit roads, one-fifth of them would need to be coated annually.
He estimated the undertaking would cost $280,000 yearly. The yearly road maintenance budget is $135,000.
“I’m not suggesting that you seal coat every road in town,” Reed said. “I’m suggesting that $135,000 per year will result in infrastructure breakdown.”
Reed estimated that, in order to raise the necessary funds to pay for road repairs, the village might need to raise property taxes. Currently Salado residents pay 12 cents per $100 valuation, the lowest property taxes of any incorporated city in Bell County.
In order to raise the needed funds, about $145,000, Reed estimated that the village would need to raise taxes to 20.5 cents per $100.
The tax increase would allow the village to undertake a road project that “gets every road and doesn’t just do spot repairs,” Reed said.
He said maintaining the roads as they are now would add “between four and five cents on the tax rate.”
“I want you thinking when we go into budget discussions that this is a realistic road maintenance budget,” Reed said. The board did not discuss any increases to the property tax rate.
Alderman Hans Fields mentioned that discussions about improving Salado’s roads have “come up every year” since he was elected to the board in 2010.
“Whenever this has come up before it wasn’t based on sealcoating,” Fields said. “It was based on putting down brand new roads.”
McDougal wondered about a separate study of the village’s roads, which was performed between 2011 and 2012, and asked if that study was still valid or if the village should look at updating it.
“If you aren’t willing to make the investment to maintain the roads the study would be a waste of money,” Reed said. McDougal defended his position.
“It’s hard for me to budget something if I don’t know how major it is,” he said.
Mayor Skip Blancett told the board that, in his experience, infrastructure repair is a serious concern amongst Salado residents.
“Coming from the campaign trail I can tell you it’s major,” Blancett said. “It’s priority one, two and three. We need a plan that says ‘in 7-10 years it will all be done.’”