County of­fi­cials hear road woes in town hall

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TOM SISSOM

GEN­TRY — Benton County of­fi­cials fielded ques­tions about roads — paving roads, drainage on those roads and speed­ing on ru­ral roads — at a town hall meet­ing Mon­day night in Gen­try.

A crowd of 40 to 50 peo­ple filled the meet­ing room at the Gen­try Public Li­brary, with county of­fi­cials and staff lin­ing the walls. County Judge Barry Moehring and Chief Deputy Meyer

Gil­bert of the Sher­iff’s Of­fice made brief pre­sen­ta­tions and then an­swered most of the ques­tions.

Moehring has set four town hall meet­ings, with more pos­si­ble if the ini­tial meet­ings seem well-at­tended and pro­duc­tive.

“I’m very happy with the turnout here tonight,” Moehring said af­ter the meet­ing. “We knew there would be ques­tions about the roads but I’m glad Chief Gil­bert was here since we had a lot of ques­tions about the Sher­iff’s Of­fice.”

Moehring said he wants res­i­dents to bring their ques­tions and com­plaints to the at­ten­tion of county govern­ment and said many peo­ple will do so in per­son who may not oth­er­wise.

“We may not hear a lot of specifics,” Moehring said. “It’s worth it if we have one cit­i­zen stand up and say ‘I have this prob­lem on this road.’”

Jay Frasier, the county’s public ser­vices ad­min­is­tra­tor and head of the Road Depart­ment, said he and his staff took the names and con­tact in­for­ma­tion of about 15 peo­ple at the meet­ing who had is­sues with county roads. Frasier said the com­plaints were mixed, with some old and some new.

“There were a lot of pre-ex­ist­ing things and some I didn’t know about,” Frasier said. “I’m learn­ing.”

Moehring briefed the au­di­ence on the ba­sics of county govern­ment and on the county’s road sys­tem.

With 1,400 miles of county roads, in­clud­ing 800 paved and 600 un­paved, the county’s bud­get is strained to keep the roads in good shape, he said.

He said fix­ing the county’s ex­ist­ing roads are the top pri­or­ity, fol­lowed by im­prove­ments to the un­paved roads.

Af­ter Ja­son Wil­liams asked how the county sets its pri­or­i­ties in road work, Moehring said the county will as­sess all of the roads and make de­ci­sions based on data show­ing the cur­rent con­di­tion of the roads, traf­fic, use by emer­gency ve­hi­cles or school buses, and the over­all needs of county res­i­dents for a road net­work. He said past prom­ises of road work may or may not be met.

“We have to make some hard de­ci­sions,” he said. “There have been more roads promised than this county can af­ford to pave.”

In re­sponse to a ques­tion about speed­ing on a county road and en­force­ment of the speed limit, Gil­bert ex­plained that the Sher­iff’s Of­fice has re­or­ga­nized and di­vided the county into dis­tricts with deputies as­signed to pa­trol those dis­tricts.

“You will see more deputies in the county and fewer in the city,” he said.

Gil­bert said the fo­rum was also worth­while for the Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

He said fix­ing the county’s ex­ist­ing roads are the top pri­or­ity, fol­lowed by im­prove­ments to the un­paved roads.

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