Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Easier process results in a flood of requests to pave lime rock roads in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — Royal Highlands resident John Young decided earlier this year that he was tired of living on a dusty lime rock road, so he set out to find out whether his neighbors on Osprey Avenue and Fulmar Road felt the same way.

In the past, to get the road paved, Young would have had to gather support from 60 percent of property owners on his street. But earlier this year, Hernando County commissioners made the process simpler.

Under the new rules, residents can pay a single $250 fee, and the county will send out survey cards. Only 51 percent of the property owners who return cards must agree in order to get on the road paving list.

So that's just what Young did. And sure enough, last month he learned that 83 percent of the cards in his area came back in favor of the paving.

That was the good news.

The bad news: The new system has brought a flood of applicants, and the pool of money set aside for the county to pay its one-third share for the paving has dried up.

Late last month, county transportation services announced on its Web page that it will take no more applications until January.

Young hasn't been told when his road might be paved, and he is not happy. "Why did they take my $250?" he asked.

Brian Malmberg, assistant county administrator for operations, said that Young's road will be paved if the special benefits unit is approved by the County Commission. Residents need to be patient as the county tries to process the applications it already has, he said.

Typically, the process from card signing to road completion can take about a year.

Usually, the county sets aside $1 million a year from the transportation trust fund to pay the county's share of lime rock road paving. But the county normally only paves 3 to 4 miles a year. With the recent rule change and a "deluge of applications," as Malmberg put it, "we have 50 miles in the hopper." That would take about $3.5 million.

Malmberg said that the paving projects will get done, and he assured residents that "there's no jumping one road over another," though some roads in close proximity might get combined into a single project because "we've got to be efficient."

Young vowed to keep an eye on what roads are getting paved to make sure no one who came in later gets paved sooner.

"Shouldn't it be first come, first served?'' he said.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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