BROOKSVILLE — The issues debated were familiar.
Lime rock roads are expensive to maintain. They throw dust clouds into the air that sicken those with breathing issues and coat houses, trees and vehicles with a white film.
On the other side of the argument, paving the roads costs a lot of money, too, and people who bought property on lime rock roads should have known what they were in for.
What wasn't so familiar was the size of the lime rock road paving project that the Hernando County Commission considered Tuesday.
In the end, the commission approved the project unanimously, taking another bite out of the 500 miles of unpaved roads in the county.
Ever since the commission loosened rules for getting lime rock road paving projects approved earlier this year, the county's Transportation Services Department has been flooded with requests.
Under the new rules, residents pay a fee to have their roadway surveyed by the county, and if 51 percent or more of those who return their cards say they want to have their street paved, the process of forming a municipal service benefit unit continues.
The county pays one-third of the ultimate construction cost; the residents pay the remaining two-thirds, divided according to the number of lots along the road.
On Tuesday, Brian Malmberg, assistant county administrator for operations, presented the commission with what amounted to the largest paving project in the time he has been on the job.
Portions of 28 lime rock roads, largely in Royal Highlands and totaling nearly 18 miles, were included. Of the 1,112 parcels along the roads, 1,031 could pay the assessment. When cards were delivered to the property owners, 558 came back, and 58 percent favored the project, Malmberg told commissioners.
The old rule required 60 percent of property owners to say yes on a petition.
For those owning property in what Malmberg referred to as Royal Highlands 2013-Road Area B, the total construction cost is an estimated $4.25 million, with each lot owner paying an estimated $3,314. On a 10-year installment plan, including interest, the cost would be approximately $473 a year.
Residents from the area packed the commission chambers.
Joe Celentano, who lives on Meinert Avenue, said that the lime rock wasn't just a cosmetic problem, but a real health concern. He asked how the cost of the paving project could be compared to the value of a human life.
Roger Giordano, on Jenny Wren Road, said he wanted the road paved, but didn't understand why the impact fees he paid when he built his house in 2005 didn't cover the paving costs.
"I really feel like I paid for this road. What happened to the money?'' he said.
Malmberg said impact fee money is reserved for more heavily traveled collector roads.
Ester Drive resident George Herman said he had no interest in seeing his road paved. A 30-year resident of the area, he said he couldn't afford the financial burden and questioned why experimental road surfaces like asphalt millings couldn't be used, with the county picking up the tab.
The cost of the paving will be less expensive than the medications that Horned Owl Road resident Jackson Jean-Marie said he must buy for his wife, who suffers from asthma.
"I am for this project,'' Jean-Marie said. "It's been a long time overdue.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.