Citizen questions county's potential liability on project
By STEPH TAHTINEN
Mt. Pleasant News
How much money are Henry County taxpayers liable to pay to maintain the sealcoating on Jewel Avenue?
That was the question Henry County resident Steve Wilson posed to the board of supervisors on Thursday morning, asking for the worst case scenario.
“How much did you agree to be liable for?” Wilson asked the board, noting that he had never heard a maximum amount mentioned. “There were no clarifications.”
In May, the county signed a contract with adjoining property owners to chip and seal .77 miles of Jewel Avenue from North Grand Avenue to the south side of the bridge. The initial construction costs were funded by the property owners, and the county is to be responsible for maintenance costs. It was stated at supervisors meetings prior to signing the contract that if the costs of maintenance exceed the cost of maintaining a gravel road, the project would be considered a failure and would be returned to gravel.
Wilson is concerned that the way the contract is worded, the county could be liable for high maintenance costs.
“We’re definitely on the hook for an unspecified amount,” said Wilson.
The supervisors interpret the contract differently, and Supervisor Chairman Gary See said he was not going to decipher the contract for Wilson.
“I don’t think I can help you to see it,” See told him. “We choose to see it differently.”
Concerning maintenance, the contract reads:
• If at 24 months from the date of formal acceptance of the completed project by the county, the county’s cost of annual maintenance has exceeded $5,000, then the project may be determined to be a failure.
• If for any 12 month period after acceptance of the project, the county’s cost of maintenance exceeds $10,000, then the project may be determined to be a failure.
• If at the end of 60 months from the date of formal acceptance of the project by the county, the cost of maintenance has exceeded $25,000 for the 60 months period, the county may determine the project to be a failure.
The supervisors indicated that they interpret the contract as saying the maintenance costs should not exceed more than $5,000 per year.
“I read it to be $5,000 per year. That’s the way I look at it,” said Supervisor Greg Moeller. “I look at the contract and say once we spend $25,000, we can consider it a failure.”
However, Wilson focused on that third bullet point — the cost must exceed $25,000.
“How much more?” asked Wilson. “This contract doesn’t put a maximum number on it — nowhere.”
Wilson pointed out that the way the contract is worded, the county must spend at least $25,000 in five years before the project is considered a failure — they cannot just say that maintenance or repairs would cost too much. The money must be spent.
“This says you’re going to spend the money, maintain the road,” said Wilson. “You can’t fail it arbitrarily. The only way you can fail it is to spend more money.”
When the road is considered a failure, it will be returned to a gravel road. This could mean that the county could spent a large amount of money to maintain the sealcoated road only to discover it is too much money and return it to a gravel road.
See ended the debate by saying that Wilson has brought this before the board several times before and he was done discussing it.
“I’m done talking about it with you,” said See. “You just continue to bring this up.”
Wilson indicated that he would be discussing the maintenance cost issue with County Attorney Darin Stater.
Henry County supervisors meet again in regular session, Tuesday, July 30, at 9 a.m. in the Henry County Courthouse.