Clark, Champaign cities, townships grapple with road repair costs

Failed road repair levies in Clark and Champaign counties have local leaders wondering how to keep up with crumbling infrastructure.

Voters rejected new levies this week in Harmony, Madison and Springfield Twps. in Clark County. In Champaign County, Salem Twp. voters also turned down an additional road repair levy.

“We don’t have any money to make these repairs,” Harmony Twp. Trustee Jay Flax said.

Federal and state funds have been cut, he said, but the cost of road repairs has increased.

“Twenty years ago we could pave a mile for $20,000,” he said. “Now it’s about $65,000 to $70,000.”

The state has cut local government funds it sends to cities, townships and counties in half by about $350 million since 2010, Ohio Municipal League Spokesman Kent Scarrett said. Those cuts were part of how the state closed an $8 billion budget hole.

City of Springfield voters also rejected an income tax increase last year that would have been dedicated for road repairs.

City leaders are still trying to figure out how to cover the cost of fixing the streets, Mayor Warren Copeland said.

“We’re doing what little we can do and people in the neighborhoods are frustrated by that,” he said.

Copeland is frustrated with repeated state cuts.

“The state is very proud of their balance, but they got their balance off the backs of the local governments,” he said.

Road conditions have declined, Springfield resident David Taylor said, adding that he has to get a front-end alignment on his car every year because of potholes.

But he doesn’t believe raising taxes is the right way to cover the cost of fixing them.

“All levels of government could do a lot better job of budgeting their finances than they do,” he said.

Another Springfield resident, Walter Curt, said he’s noticed the poor condition of roads, too, but agreed that higher taxes aren’t the answer.

His suggestion for how city leaders should cover the costs — “How about stop giving themselves money?”

All four failed road levies on this years’ ballot were new levies, which would have raised taxes if approved. Statewide more than 120 new levies were on township ballots and half of them failed.

Township leaders understand residents don’t want to pay more taxes. But down the line, they say costs will be much higher.

If things keep going the way they are, Madison Twp. Trustee Brian Harbage said the roads will be in worse condition.

“This little amount of money we’re asking for now won’t touch the cost once it’s in disrepair,” he said.

For now, “we’ll just have to prioritize,” he said.

Harmony Twp. will try to pass a levy again next year, Flax said, and educate the community on why the money is needed.

Now the township is getting by with “Band-Aid” repairs — patching up roads instead of re-paving — but he said eventually more extensive repairs will be needed.

Continued cuts to the general fund have led townships to ask residents for more money, Ohio Township Association Executive Director Matt DeTemple said in a statement.

“They are only able to provide the same level of service with less money for so long,” he said.

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