Over the next decade, in excess of 170 miles of Redwood County roadway will reach what Keith Berndt, county highway department engineer, called end of life.

Those roadways, which are scattered throughout the county, are getting to the point of being in excess of 15 years old, and, according to roadway standards, will be in need of mill and overlay work.

Those bituminous roadways, said Berndt, have a typical lifespan of 20-25 years, and by that time are in need of work to get them back into good shape for those using them.

At an estimated $350,000 per mile to get back into shape, Berndt told the Redwood County Board of Commissioners at its Nov. 20 meeting that is going to cost in the area of $62 million – $6 million per year.

According to Berndt, the county receives an annual allocation of funds from the state, which, in recent years, has been in the $3 million range creating a significant shortfall for the county when it comes to addressing road maintenance.

Berndt admitted all of that could change in the future, as no one knows what the state legislature is going to do, but the reality is that the county needs to put a long-term plan together to help address the growing need in terms of road upkeep. That is part of the reason why Berndt has proposed moving ahead with the addition of a half-cent sales tax option in the county. 

After initially talking about the idea a couple of weeks ago, Berndt brought the topic up with the board again at its meeting this past week. At the end of the discussion, the board voted 4-1 to hold a public hearing as part of the process toward potential implementation of the sales tax option. Commissioner Lon Walling voted against the motion. That hearing will be held Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. in the board room of the county government center in Redwood Falls.

Berndt reiterated the fact that the local sales tax option at a half percent increase would bring in approximately $700,000 annually, adding that is not the only action the county may have to take. However, he said, it would certainly help.

The county board briefly discussed the potential of eliminating pavement on some of the less traveled roadways in the county – those with an average daily travel around 100 – and turning those roads back to gravel. Berndt said that option would save the county money. Berndt added he has taken that step in a previous role.

The public is encouraged to attend the public hearing to share its thoughts on the proposal.