Mohave supervisors settle road issue, at least for now

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Transportation Commission will continue to serve its current role in providing "checks and balances" for capital road expenditures, but will not recommend roads for tertiary maintenance by Public Works, county supervisors decided Monday.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to keep the 10-member commission, which has four vacancies and canceled five of its monthly meetings last year, and will review the commission's role in a year.

Supervisor Steve Moss made a motion to expand the Transportation Commission's role in accepting roads for county maintenance, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Public Works currently selects roads for tertiary maintenance, and Moss wanted all roads to go through the commission first.

The commission was established in 1997 because of worries about "cronyism and favoritism," and is ideally situated to educate the public and assure "transparency," Moss said.

Road maintenance is among the most critical services provided by the county and also among the most frequent complaints, he added.

The county's tertiary road maintenance system applies to roadways constructed before 1990 that do not meet requirements of the county subdivision and road maintenance regulations.

All roads must be petitioned for inclusion into the tertiary road maintenance system, and the petition must be approved by the Board of Supervisors. Roads are maintained "as time is available," possibly no more than once a year.

Roads constructed as part of an approved subdivision are automatically included in the county's regular maintenance system one year after final acceptance by the Board of Supervisors.

The Transportation Commission provides community participation and public input, similar to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and is being underutilized, Moss said.

The commission was established in 1997 only to deal with capital expenditures, not to accept roads for tertiary maintenance, County Administrator Mike Hendrix responded.

Public Works goes through "quite a process" to determine which roads are in the most distress and put the money where it's needed most, he said.

"It's an engineering call to decide if they need maintenance," Hendrix told the board. "Either they meet the standards or they don't. The petition is only used as a request."

Supervisor Jean Bishop said five meetings of the Transportation Commission were canceled and the agendas seemed "very light," primarily educational items rather than action items.

"My thought is we need to reduce layers of government," Bishop said. "My biggest complaint is county roads. It isn't easy to bring roads into maintenance and it isn't easy to get HURF funds."

The cost of having the Transportation Commission is minimal, as commissioners are not paid for their work and receive only mileage reimbursement, but the county does supply a clerk for meetings and attendance by Public Works staff is required, Bishop noted.

Steve Latoski, director of Public Works, said his staff assembles capital road improvement projects and presents them to the Transportation Commission for recommendation of the board's approval.

About 45 percent of the county's roads are near the end of their "structural service life," and staff has come up with a practical approach to identify roads for near-term structural improvement, Latoski said.

He concurred with Hendrix on various ways the Board of Supervisors can consider a petition for road maintenance and whether the roads meet county standards.

Latoski said he saw an "immediate need" when he took the job of Public Works director and focused on existing highways where federal dollars were predicated on travel safety at a particular location.

"Typically, we're handcuffed where we can spend federal dollars," he said.