Although some county residents are concerned that planned road resurfacing will compromise Carroll’s rural character, county officials say the changes will make the roads more stable and keep maintenance costs down.
Steve Clemons has lived in Carroll County for more than 30 years and has spent the last 23 living on a historic farm near the intersection of Adams Mill Road and Roops Mill Road, both currently made of loose gravel.
County commissioners recently voted to resurface these roads, along with Baumgardner Road, Baumgardner Road South, Brown Road, Crossroad Schoolhouse Road, Davis Road, Dr. Stitely Road, Gablehammer Road, Green Meadow Lane, Greenwood Church Road, Hoover Mill Road, Leisters Schoolhouse Road, Motter Road, Old Fridinger Mill Road, Ralph Dell Road, Rockland Road, Sam’s Creek Road, and Wilt Road.
About 19 miles of county road will be improved in this project. The Board of County Commissioners approved a $891,538 contract for the road projects with Russell Standard Corp. at its Thursday meeting.
Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said Wednesday that the resurfacing process, called tar-and-chipping, is a method in which existing gravel and dirt are solidified. The process entails the roads being vacuumed of excess rocks and a specialized seal being applied.
According to a county document, this project is intended to harden the surface of these gravel roads by sealing cracks and preventing water infiltration.
“I have come to understand and appreciate the value of these unimproved roadways for Carroll County residents,” Clemons said. “It took me a long while to understand and appreciate the fact that people actually make a point to come to my area” to walk, run, bike or just enjoy the outdoors.
He said he is opposed to the change because he believes it will result in increased traffic.
“Waze and other navigation programs typically avoid gravel roads,” Clemons said. “If these roads are paved, I don’t expect to see … those regulars who actually drive to our area for a walk, let alone a Saturday morning run.”
Although the gravel roads typically suffer from washouts after a summer storm, he asked, “What do we value more, a rural legacy or the price of gravel?”
“Things that make this area quaint will be lost,” Clemons said.
He called the speed and manner in which this decision was made “very disappointing” as it gave little time for the public to engage and provide input.
Clemons said he remains hopeful “there is still the opportunity to improve this area through preservation and not by thoughtless improvements that have broader impacts.”
Ted Simon, a resident of Roops Mill Road, addressed county commissioners at their June 17 meeting to express concern with the decision to treat the series of roads.
“The vast majority of people who live on Roops Mill, Adams Mill [and] Rockland Road do not want to see the county tar-and-chip those roads,” he said.
Simon noted the county would save $75,000 per mile if they refrained from treating the roads, on top of $1,200 a year in the difference of maintenance costs.
“On behalf of the 19 families on Roops Mill, Adams Mill and Rockland Road, we are asking to be exempt from the tar-and-chip project and that you maintain the rural character of Carroll County at the three roads,” he said.
Bouchat said some residents are under the impression the roads are getting paved with asphalt, which is not the case.
“We’re just solidifying existing gravel and dirt,” he said. “Gravel roads erode easily and take more to maintain … There’s not proper irrigation.”
He mentioned loose rocks will be removed so water can wash off after heavy rain but the roads won’t look much different from they do now.
In a test to find out which method of stabilization is best for the gravel roads, the commissioner said tar-and-chipping was the “most economical and resistant to weather.” He added residents on three test roads immediately noticed less dust and gravel getting kicked up.
When asked if he believes the improvement will bring more traffic onto the roads, Bouchat said it’s “absurd to think that’ll happen” since “Roops Mill is “out of the way.”
“The roads will last longer without having to pave them,” he said. “It’s a good compromise.”
He encouraged the public to “be patient and watch what we are going to do … It’ll relieve some of the anxiety and apprehension.”
At today’s commissioner meeting, Doug Brown, deputy director of the county’s department of public works, said on Thursday the process will “keep the characteristics of the gravel roads” intact while also reducing runoff and maintenance costs. The treated road will also be much more stable, he said, noting “dust and dirt stay down.”
Simon said Bouchat and county road staff had directed him to the test sites so he could see how the roads would look when the tar-and-chipping process was complete.
“You could land a plane on them, they were like a runway,” he said. After presenting commissioners with a petition signed by neighbors who did not want the change, they still voted to move forward with the plan.
“We don’t want it, we don’t need it,” Simon said. “It’s just unnecessary and tone deaf to the hearts of the people … The process wasn’t thought through.”