BROOKSVILLE — For years, the County Commission has heard the pleas for relief by residents who live along Hernando's 500 miles of dusty lime rock roads.
They've raised health questions, complained about the damage inflicted on their vehicles as roads wash away, and clamored for more maintenance for the ruts and potholes that develop.
Paving those roads would cost an estimated $105-million, funding Hernando County doesn't have to spare.
But on Tuesday, the commission approved the first five-year plan for providing dust control and road improvement for 15 miles of the neediest lime rock roads.
Commissioners were so eager to get the project under way that they urged the staff not only to find a way to fund the treatment of Thrasher Avenue in northwest Hernando County, the first-year priority, but also to try and get second-year priority roads, including Bailey Hill Road, done in 2009.
During the budget process this summer, commissioners had approved setting aside $390,000 a year for each of the next five years to pay to apply a surface treatment known as "chip seal,'' which bonds with the lime rock, making the road more stable and cutting down the lime rock dust.
A demonstration of the product was done recently on Star Road, and officials reported that the results were "promising.''
The list of roads proposed by the Public Works Department and approved by the commission Tuesday was compiled using a formula that considered the type of road — such as a major or collector — the population density based on the number of connecting streets and homes, the average traffic count, the current cost of maintenance and the cost of treating the road.
Thrasher came out on top largely because of traffic flow that generates 706 trips a day, compared to 528 on Bailey Hill. But Bailey Hill had 87 homes compared to Thrasher's 19.
"That's a big deal,'' said Commissioner Diane Rowden, who wondered why the number of residents didn't play a bigger part in the ranking.
Public works director Charles Mixson said that Thrasher had significantly more cross streets dumping vehicles onto it as motorists made their way to U.S. 19, and maintenance costs had been higher.
"I wish we had the money to do both at the same time,'' Rowden said. "They're both as vital as far as the amount of traffic.''
Residents from each road came forward during the meeting urging action, complaining about the dust and the health risks it posed.
Rowden also noted that residents on Bailey Hill, also in the northwest part of the county, had long fought for some kind of help from the county. She asked County Administrator David Hamilton: "Do we have any more money?''
Commission Chairman Chris Kingsley asked if there was some way that the county could loan money to itself to get both roads done in the first year.
"The budget is real tight, but we can look at that,'' said Larry Jennings, deputy county administrator.
With that promise, commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the five-year plan. Commissioner Rose Rocco was absent.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.