Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

The Morris County Freeholders are moving ahead with a more aggressive resurfacing program for county maintained roads without increasing debt or taxes.

The Freeholders said they will add $2.6 million in county funds to the $2.2 million they were already investing in paving projects this year.

Those dollars, coupled with $3.9 million in federal transportation funds, means the county will now be able to resurface approximately 33 miles of county roads instead of the 22 miles called for in the original capital budget. Over the prior five years, an average of 17 miles of roads had been paved.

“Even before this difficult winter we had focused on road repaving which was increased by 55 percent in the capital budget,” said Freeholder David Scapicchio, chair of the Capital Budget & Facilities Review Committee. “We also asked staff to prepare a contingency list of additional projects. The county’s professional staff determine road project priorities. Working with the budget committee and administration we were able to identify capital project funding for the additional road resurfacing, without increasing debt or debt service in the budget.”

Freeholder Director Tom Mastrangelo said the freeholders are responding as a board to the concerns that have been expressed by county residents and local officials over county road conditions caused by the harsh winter.

“We were already moving in the direction of an increased road paving program, and feedback we received from county residents and local officials confirmed this was the right path,” Mastrangelo said. “Increasing the resurfacing of roads from 22 miles to 33 miles is a significant achievement.”

Some projects that were in this year’s capital budget are being postponed to 2015 for various reasons, including DEP stream restrictions and scheduling requests from some towns.

Savings from those and other projects will mean the adoption of a new bond ordinance to allow the freeholders to increase the number of miles to be paved this year without increasing debt.

“Everyone supported the expanded program,” said Freeholder John Krickus, a member of the budget committee, “but we also needed to pay for the program by being more efficient and continuing our program of debt reduction.” He said total county debt is being reduced by over $8 million in 2014.

“Residents and local officials should know that we have heard their pleas, and we are responding by making a major investment of county dollars to improve our infrastructure,” said Freeholder Doug Cabana, another Capital Budget & Facilities Review Committee member.

Morris County maintains 300 miles of county roadways.

“Keeping up with repairing the county’s road network, especially after the winter we just experienced, is a challenge, but it is one the Freeholders are committed to meet,” said Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo, also a member of the Capital Budget & Facilities Review Committee. “It’s a quality of life issue.”

The enhanced resurfacing program comes on the heels of the county’s embarking on a major pothole repair campaign last month.
The freeholders added $75,000 to the 2014 capital budget for the purchase of three Hot Boxes to add to the three others now in use, two of which were purchased by the county in 2013.

A Hot Box keeps the asphalt used to fill a pothole heated at the right temperature to ensure a better, longer-lasting repair.