County officials get an earful about Golden Valley roads

An example of one of the many roads in Golden Valley. Large rocks, washboarding and potholes are common problems that wreak havoc on cars. throughout the valley. (Courtesy)

An example of one of the many roads in Golden Valley. Large rocks, washboarding and potholes are common problems that wreak havoc on cars. throughout the valley. (Courtesy)

GOLDEN VALLEY - Golden Valley residents grilled Mohave County representatives Monday night during a public meeting concerning the state of Golden Valley roads.

Supervisor Jean Bishop, County Administrator Michael Hendrix, and Public Works Director Steven Latoski fielded questions from a sizeable crowd, with concerns ranging from how the roads are graded and maintained to flooding to taxes and how the roads are funded.

Golden Valley has nearly 170 miles of roads that are regularly maintained by the county. In addition, the county maintains 82 miles of paved shoulder and 28 miles of tertiary roads, which are roads that are maintained "as time is available."

The county, however, does not maintain the vast majority of the roads in Golden Valley.

Most of the questions from the audience concerned road grading - specifically, how the roads are graded and which roads get graded.

One resident asked why the county doesn't maintain smaller, connecting streets when the surrounding streets are all county-maintained. Another asked why the county would maintain a street halfway before turning the grader around. Numerous residents were angry that roads with no homes were maintained, yet entire residential neighborhoods were left alone.

With many residents bringing specific examples of road disrepair to the panel, Public Works Director Steven Latoski urged the public to communicate with public works.

"The public is our eyes and ears. If anyone observes distress, please contact public works," said Latoski. "Snap a picture and send it in to us."

Forms were available at the meeting for residents to identify specific areas, and Latoski was taking notes on specific issues brought to his attention during the meeting.

Latoski also discussed the challenges of road maintenance in Golden Valley, which boils down to road soil composition, traffic forces and the environment.

"Once they (Mohave County) finish a segment, the road is subject to traffic forces that act on the road that cause the roads to wear down differently," he said. "Environmental impacts are limited to water, but wind actually has an impact that moves the fine material. That material is important because it binds the larger pieces of gravel. Finally, when working the road itself, there is a major impact if it doesn't have any binding elements like clay. Without it, it is silty/sandy and it becomes difficult to blade."

Hendrix, and occasionally Bishop, also stepped in to explain why certain roads were maintained and others were not. Their explanations nearly always came down to state law and what is required by the county for a road to be maintained.

Road standards

In order for a road to be maintained by the county, it must meet certain criteria. All roads must connect to existing county-maintained roads as well as have "continuous public right-of-way at a minimum width required to accept road for maintenance."

In addition, roads proposed for tertiary maintenance need to meet the following requirements:

• Have a petition with no less than 25 signatures from area residents

• Must have been laid out and open to traffic prior to June 13, 1990

• Must have a minimum graded travel surface of 24 feet wide with 2-foot wide shoulders

• Must be able to accommodate a 2WD subcompact car safely

• All large boulders and rocks 3 inches and larger removed, as well as brush and trees in the way.

Roads put forth for regular maintenance must be engineered and constructed to adopt county engineering standards. The standards differ depending on what kind of classification the road falls under, but in general roads for regular maintenance must meet the following:

• Have each side sloping 2 percent down from the center of the road

• A travel surface of 24 feet

• 8-foot shoulders that slope 5 percent down from the road

• Depending on the classification, a ditch and back slope

Mohave County adopted the tertiary maintenance standards because of how difficult and expensive it is to meet regular maintenance standards.

Costs and taxes

Mohave County road maintenance is solely funded through Arizona's Highway User Revenue Fund and lottery money. No property taxes or taxes collected by the county are used in road maintenance.

Both tertiary and regularly maintained roads must also be improved at no cost to the county.

"The county is not in the road construction business. We are in the road maintenance business," stressed Hendrix.

According to Hendrix, most people pay less than $10 a year for roads.

Arizona's HURF distributed over $213 million in 2014 to counties in Arizona, with Mohave County getting $10.6 million of those funds. HURF money is utilized in a variety of funds, with most of it going to roads.

The county has $8.68 million allocated for roads in 2014, but according to Bishop, that money has been getting swept away by state legislation.

The county has budgeted $6.79 million for 2015, a 22 percent reduction.

However, the county has stressed that as long as the roads are petitioned correctly, there is no reasonable limit to the number of roads that can be brought in for maintenance.