Bay Co. Officials Look at Three Options to Repair Roads

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PANAMA CITY-- During the recession Bay County Commissioners cut services to keep from raising taxes.

That meant only emergency repairs for a lot of the county's roads.

Public Works Director Ken Schnell says all those years of cutting corners has taken a toll on the 746 miles of county owned and maintained roads.

"Thirty percent of that 746 is in dirt roads and another 515 miles of paved roads," Ken Schnell, Bay Co. Director of Public Works, said.

"We'd have sub-base problems, what have you. So we really want to try and put some more money back into road paving projects that during the recession we had cut out," Edwin Smith, Bay Co. Manager, said.

If a paved road is not maintained and loses its base, and becomes more expensive to repair.

"We have 700 miles of roads that require a whole a lot of maintenance and just to maintain that they're telling us is like $5 million a year," Bay Co. Commissioner Mike Thomas said.

Commissioners only have $1 million in next year’s budget for road paving. So they're looking for ways to raise the rest.

One option is to raise property tax. Another is to raise gas taxes. But a third option seems to have piqued commissioners' interests - a half-cent sales tax.

Staff projects the sales tax could raise about $10 million a year, $5 million for the county and the other $5 million going to the municipalities. Officials say it won't happen overnight.

"None of those three options will happen next year. Those are more long term where do we go the year after. What kind of funding solutions the board want to see then."

The next budget workshop is July 29.