Our Portage County engineer has asked our commissioners to enact two "permissive" license fees adding $10 to each vehicle registration, costing an additional $1.67 per month for each vehicle. Many states' license fees are four to five times Ohio's, even with the increase.
Sixty-five percent of our county roads are in poor condition and only 16 percent are in good condition. Some bridges in our county in such bad shape that school buses are not allowed to cross them. All of the new money will go to capital improvements -- to fix our roads and bridges. We need them fixed this summer.
Fees can be enacted: (1.) The regular method -- the commissioners can adopt a resolution that will not go into effect for 30 days and is subject to a referendum. In other words, at a minimum, with no referendum the money is not available until July. If a referendum is called for, the vote would be in November. More deterioration for another year before serious repair can be done. Worse, a year's opportunity to apply for federal and state matching grants will be lost -- Portage losing hundreds of thousands of dollars to do more repairs. (2.) The electorate method -- the commissioners adopt a resolution to present the fees to the electorate. This method creates certainty that major work is delayed until next spring, certainty that Portage will miss out on matching grants and need to do much more serious repairs. (3.) The emergency method -- The commissioners can declare our road deterioration is an emergency and vote unanimously to enact the increase. When 65 percent of our roads are rated "poor" -- the lowest rating -- this is an emergency. Deteriorated roads pose threats to safety, damage to our cars, danger to our lives, and reduced property value.
We cannot afford to wait until next year. Economically, it makes more sense for each of us to spend $10 more per year on each vehicle than to have to repair broken axles or to pay $50 for a realignment.
Our commissioners must fulfill their responsibility -- pass the resolution on an emergency basis so the county engineer's office can apply for matching grants and start repairing our roads and bridges.
Gwen B. Fischer, Hiram