By Alex Bridges
Dee Schools and many neighbors in Shenandoah Farms say Warren County neglects some roads while it saves money for future projects.
Schools, William Perry and Lynda McDonough recently pointed out places in their neighborhood they say they feel need more attention than the county gives.
At Freeze Road and Crossway Lane, Perry noted, "You'll see all the dips and ruts going down the road here. It's ridiculous."
He added, "I don't like that they said nobody has a problem with the roads, the roads are fine, 'cause I got a problem."
Schools added, "You get tired [of complaining] after so many years."
Crews recently went through the district and put down gravel to fill holes in the roads. But several nearby culverts remained clogged or covered completely.
"Water has nowhere to go but the road," Schools said.
Rain washes gravel used to fill holes into ditches to the point they can't direct the runoff, Perry explained. In some places the runoff flows into homeowners' properties.
Schools asked, "If you can come out here and throw some gravel down in some potholes, how come you can't dig out a couple culverts?
"If you did the maintenance you wouldn't have the potholes," she said.
Perry said most of the time "they don't do nothing. It's just pothole city."
The county took over the maintenance of most of the neighborhood by creating the sanitary district. The move allows the county to collect the fees paid by homeowners and then use the funds to maintain the district. The county recently completed a study that identified the district's road and drainage needs. Officials drafted a list of projects the county would pursue and the property owners' association recently endorsed the plan.
Denise Lilley, of Pickford Court, said roads near her part of the neighborhood don't appear as bad as those Schools and Perry cited. Lilley suggested members of the Board of Supervisors take a driving tour of the neighborhood.
"The saddest part is they're not horrible, but they're falling apart," Lilley said by phone Thursday. "I'm not saying don't improve the roads. The road revenue thingy, if they want to do that, that's fine. But don't let everything else down here fall apart just 'cause you're trying to save money to do them."
Deputy County Administrator Bob Childress, who also serves as manager of the sanitary district while the position remains vacant, noted that the community has banked approximately $500,000. But the county faces spending much more money on road improvements in the district with an ultimate goal of handing over maintenance of many routes to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
"Just because we haven't spent the money doesn't mean we haven't been providing drainage maintenance," Childress said by phone Friday. "I just haven't had the need at this point, fortunately, to have to go in and replace a pipe."
Asked about clogged or buried culverts or other issues, Childress said he had staff in the district performing tasks such as filling potholes, cutting brush from the roads, digging out the ends of pipes to allow proper drainage.
Childress noted that the mountain terrain makes road repairs difficult to maintain. Rain runoff washes out spots and forms potholes. Likewise, pipes clog.
"It's a continual process for us, riding the roads," Childress said. "Between myself and another member of our county staff, we rode over every road in the Farms ... to check for downed limbs impacting travel and stopped-up pipes."
Schools and others have questioned why residents have had to pay for certain improvements not associated with the neighborhood. Schools noted that the district had to cover the entire cost to buy property on High Top Road near Old Linden Road needed as a 60-foot turnaround for VDOT vehicles. Shenandoah Farms receives a parking area as part of the deal. Old Linden Road is part of the adjacent Linden Heights that did not pay for the turnaround. Schools pointed to a utility pole that cost Shenandoah Farms approximately $9,000 to relocate.
McDonough, who lives on High Top Road, said they couldn't figure out why, either.
Schools said, "That's what they don't tell you: the community pays for all those additional things."
But little of the district funds since the county took over in fiscal 2010 has been spent on maintenance.
Information provided to Schools by the county Finance Department indicates that from July 1 to Feb. 28 the locality had spent less than 33 percent of the funds allocated for the sanitary district. The county included $524,817 in its current budget for the district. But as Schools pointed, out the county had spent only $170,762. It was not clear if the county planned to spend more in the coming months before the end of the fiscal year or if officials can expect to see bills for some services come in later in the cycle.
The data show the county has spent nearly twice the $7,000 budgeted for pavement maintenance and repair and approximately half the amount allocated for labor. The county also has spent nearly 75 percent of the $78,000 set for contracted services.
But the county has spent no money on road improvement projects, according to the district's expenditure summary.
Information provided on the county's website shows the budget for fiscal 2012 included $493,925 for the sanitary district, but the locality appropriated $494,680. The county spent $369,116, leaving $125,564. The prior cycle the county appropriated $378,275 - more than $100,000 less than the budgeted amount. The county spent $377,779, the information shows.
In the 2½ years the county has maintained the district roads, Childress said he has not come across a culvert he would need to replace. By not spending the money to replace a culvert, Childress noted the funds can go to the larger capital projects.
Schools and other residents have complained that the county has not yet begun road improvements identified in the study completed last year.
County officials have said the roads connected to state-maintained routes need improving to VDOT standards. Then the state would take over the roads formerly maintained by the county. But Schools argued that VDOT likely would not adopt many of the roads in the neighborhood because they are too steep.
Childress confirmed that grade and curvature can prohibit VDOT from accepting a road into the state system. But Childress noted that when the state takes over roads, the county has more money to spend on routes left to the locality.
Schools and other residents complimented the county for its efforts to remove snow from the neighborhood this winter. But she expressed concern that the county plans to restrict parking along High Top Road leading into the neighborhood where residents park when it snows because they cannot travel on their roads.
The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposed amendment to the county code to allow for parking restrictions in certain areas. County Administrator Douglas Stanley said officials had received complaints about vehicles parked in the High Knob subdivision as well as in Shenandoah Farms.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org