Council agrees it needs to find money to maintain county roads

State lawmakers ended their 2013 session without passing legislation that would have forced the Huntington County Council to adopt a new tax on vehicle owners, but the local council members agreed Monday, May 21, that they're going to have to find money from somewhere to fix crumbling county roads.

"The longer we put it off, the more expensive it's going to be to take care of it," Councilman Don Davenriner said.

The proposed state law would have required all Indiana counties to collect a motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax to help fund road maintenance. At the session's end, though, that requirement was dropped and state legislators shifted some expenses in order to allocate more money to counties for road maintenance.

Huntington County Highway Superintendent Troy Hostetler said Huntington County will receive about $625,000 in additional funding to help maintain roads.

"It's not everything we need, but it will definitely help," Hostetler told council.

Properly maintaining county roads, he said, requires an expenditure of more than $1 million a year. The highway department is currently doing maintenance work on only about 30 miles of road a year, he said; it needs to do at least 80 to 90 miles of road each year to keep pace with maintenance needs.

Traditionally, that money has come from state Motor Vehicle Highway funds, which are generated through a variety of sources including gasoline taxes, vehicle registration and title fees and other vehicle-related sources. But Hostetler says that pool of money is shrinking - people are driving less because the price of gasoline is so high, and people who drive fuel efficient and electric cars buy even less fuel. At the same time, he says, the cost of road maintenance materials is rising.

Instead of implementing a motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax this year, council members plan to see if there's any money in the county budget that can be allocated for road maintenance - possibly taking $300,000 from the CAGIT (county adjusted gross income tax) fund.

And while no wheel tax/surtax will be implemented this year, that doesn't mean it will never be done.

"It might be something we'll have to look at in the future," Hostetler said.
"Eventually, we will be faced with it," Council President John Hacker agreed.

In other business Monday:
• The council approved a tax abatement for expansion of a property owned by Mitchell Mounsey at 982 E. Markle Rd., Huntington.

Mounsey told council the building will be doubled in size to accommodate growth of the company using that space. The company builds handicap accessible SUVs, he said, and plans to add employees.

• Melanie Park was appointed to the Andrews Public Library board.

• Huntington County Clerk Kittie Keiffer received the council's approval to hire a new employee to handle the influx of traffic tickets that began after the Roanoke Town Court was closed.

Keiffer said the number of tickets handled by her office has more than doubled. Each ticket handled results in $18.90 returned to the county, she said, and that income will be more than enough to pay for the additional employee.