Money well spent? Paving controversy - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Money well spent? Paving controversy

Posted: Updated: Feb 3, 2014 06:20 PM
The state is spending $620,000 to pave a dirt road in Pender County with one resident and very little traffic. The state is spending $620,000 to pave a dirt road in Pender County with one resident and very little traffic.

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - It's a lot of money to spend paving a road with a population of one -- $620,000 to pave a single dirt road in Pender County that gets very little traffic.

WECT received an email from a viewer who lives near Stone House Road, and was concerned the state was wasting tax money by paving it.

Other residents, like Mary Carney, are left wondering why this road is being paved before others where there may be a more dire need. Carney has lived on Sawyer Lane for about 20 years. During that time, she and her neighbors have tried time and time again to get this road paved, but it remains unpaved in terrible condition.

"We pay taxes just like everybody else and somebody need to help us with this road," Carney said. "We got people coming in, going out, working, and then the road gets so bad, you can't go through it hardly."

Carney says it's not just frustrating - it's dangerous. When she had a stroke, Carney says the rescue vehicle got stuck trying to get her to the hospital.

Since they have declined to pave Sawyer Lane, residents like Carney are particularly puzzled by why the state is spending over a half million dollars to pave Stone House Road in Rocky Point. It's nearly two miles long, and with the exception of one caretaker for a chicken farm, no one lives there.

We spent an hour on Stone House Road on a recent week day afternoon and only saw one car drive by. Thinking that might be a fluke, we came back again on another day during the traditional rush hour. That time, we saw four cars pass in the hour before the sun went down.

Department of Transportation officials tell us this paving project was part of a plan from the previous admonition to pave all state maintained roads, regardless of traffic or population. "The goal was to eventually pave everything out," explained DOT Division Engineer Robert Vause. "Whether or not that happens under the new legislation, I'm not sure."

The farm owner on Stone House Road told us the state approached him about paving it, and since it will help his business, he didn't object. But Pender County Commissioners did express reservations years ago about the DOT's plans to pave roads that were virtually unpopulated.

Engineers explained they were simply following state guidelines, but Commissioner Jimmy Tate maintains the guidelines don't make sense. "Any policy that would allow for a road to be paved where no residents live on, versus a road where I have seniors and others who may need medical care and other services and cannot be paved - I'm very concerned about that policy and we think that policy needs to be revisited as soon as possible," Tate said.

Tate hears from constituents about road problems almost on a weekly basis, and in his opinion, there are many roads which should be higher on the paving priority list than Stone House Road.

DOT officials tell us most of the unpaved roads in question are private roads, and the state doesn't have the budget to take them all over for paving purposes.

But Mary Carney says limited funding is all the more reason the DOT should rethink what gets paved next. "Why would you pave a road with nobody living on it?" she asked. "I wouldn't. I'd pave the one with someone living down here that needs help."

Stone House Road is one of seven rural state roads in Pender County that is being paved by the DOT, at a total cost of $1.3 million. It had already been given the go-ahead when new legislation changed the way paving projects are approved in North Carolina.

Before, it was done on a county by county basis, but moving forward, new paving projects will be considered on a state wide level. Instead of allocating money to each county, and letting engineers and officials at the local level decide which paving projects are most pressing, officials will decide which are the most dire in the entire state, and assign funds accordingly.

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