DeKalb County Officials say costs of roads have increased while budget has stayed the same

Northeast Alabama

County Road 611 in DeKalb County

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. – A viewer sent in photos of County Road 611 in DeKalb County. She said the road is excruciating to drive on, riddled with pot holes that have been re-filled time after time leaving nothing but a bumpy road. She’s had enough.

We took a drive on the road and discovered she wasn’t lying. “We get a lot of complaints from 611. It`s got a bad place in it that needs some attention,” said DeKalb County District 1 Commissioner Shane Wootten.

But he says so do dozens of others. ”We’ve got some roads that are in pretty good shape, some in the mid-range and some that are just really bad.”

He describes CR 611 as ‘mid-range’, so what does ‘really bad’ look like? Wootten took WHNT on a driving tour of district one and these roads are literally falling apart under your tires. The solution seems simple, just repave them. But in this case. that’s easier said than done.

1992 was the last time DeKalb County saw an increase in road revenue. “At that time to tar and gravel a road cost about $5,000 a mile,” said Wootten. Today it costs nearly $35,000 per mile.

Each of the four districts in DeKalb County gets $150,000 a year for road projects. And to pave a road like CR 611, which is about 5 miles long, “Would probably take up more than one year of my budget to repave that one road,” said Wootten. “I’ve got almost 400 miles in my district. The numbers just don`t pan out. Most all real rural counties are having a real hard time right now.”

Dekalb County Road Superintendent, Tom Broyles, echoes that sentiment. “We’re always reacting to some kind of a problem.” Being proactive isn’t an option. Broyles says money is in short supply, but that`s only one contributing factor for their poor roads.

Broyles says it all came to a head in 2007, “We had a severe freeze and basically turned the pavement upside down on about 300 roads.”

10 years later. “We still have not recovered. 80 percent of the patching we do today are on those roads,” said Broyles.

With only a little over half a million dollars per year for road repair, they’re only seeing a little over a dozen miles resurfaced a year out of 1,435 miles in the county. “We need to be able to do 20, 30, even 40 miles a year,” said Wootten. And that’s per district.

Broyles says their budget comes from the gas and fuel tax which is sent to the state, then redistributed among the counties based on population. “We’re not a highly populated county, but yet we are probably the second county in the state when it comes to total road mileage.” He said changing the way the money is distributed could make all the difference.

Regardless, Wootten says you’ll see big changes over the next few years. Either a tax increase will bring in newly paved roads or “If we don`t have some kind of funds in the next few years, we`ll have to go back to old timey dirt roads like what they had 50 years ago,” said Wootten. “The people of DeKalb County and the people of Alabama are going to have to make the decision, do they want to invest in their county, area and home town?’

The county currently contracts their paving to a company. They say they’ve considered doing the work themselves, but currently don`t have the man power to make it happen.

Commissioner Wootten encourages everyone to call their state representatives and ask for more funding to help our Alabama roads.

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