Road woes stress county

Howard County commissioners met Monday morning to discuss a number of issues, but the state of county roadways — and the desperate need for their maintenance — took center stage.Commissioners approved a resolution calling for the state of Texas to step in and assist counties with the high cost of road maintenance associated with the boom in the oilfield.“I recently met with the West Texas County Judge and Commissioners Association, and this is a resolution many of the counties are adopting and sending to Austin,” Barr said. “The hope is they will pass some sort of legislation to help the counties with these costs associated with road maintenance. This isn’t just a problem here in Howard County. It’s a problem all across the state.”The court approved the measure on a unanimous vote. Unfortunately, the resolution may be more of a gesture than anything else, according to Barr.“All you can do is submit these things to Austin and hope they listen,” Barr said. “When a number of counties submit a resolution like this together, it certainly helps, but it’s no guarantee the legislature will take any action on it.”In the meantime, commissioners aren’t waiting around for the problem to be solved by representatives in the state capitol.The court took time Monday to discuss the implementation of road use agreements with the oil companies that use the county roadways the most.“We are looking at several different road use agreements being used by area counties to help pay for road maintenance,” Barr said. “This was a way for us to get the discussion and exchange of ideas on the issue started.”According to Barr, the boom in the oilfield is having a negative impact on many of the county’s roads.“This certainly constitutes abnormal use,” Barr said. “The increased traffic on these county roads is taking a very heavy toll and simple property taxes aren’t even going to come close to paying for the necessary repairs. We have to look at a way to pay for the maintenance of these roads. One of the agreements we looked at is set when the individual oil company gets a permit to drill in the county.”Barr said the court appears to be on the same page when it comes to the need for a user agreement to help pay for the much-needed road repairs.“I feel like everyone on the commissioners court understands this is needed,” Barr said. “Everyone seems to be on the same page, so far. Now they have several similar agreements from other counties to look at and draw from, and we can begin to craft our own agreement. The main goal here is to do it right the first time. We want to proceed with caution on the issues, but at the same time, we need to move forward.”Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at