Driving the residential streets of Joseph is a bit like navigating the craters of the moon. Potholes are everywhere, some of them deep enough to dislodge a hubcap.
The best chance the city will have to make a dent in its road maintenance is ahead. State funding for roads will increase dramatically 2021-24 when legislation approved last year kicks in.
Oregon Department of Transportation’s budget will nearly double from where it sits today. Wallowa County and its cities should be the beneficiaries.
According to numbers provided by ODOT, Joseph will receive $64,300 from state highway trust fund in 2018.
That will jump to $81,300 in coming years.
In addition, targeted revenues are being allocated for small cities where the state’s funding matrix doesn’t always fill the bill. That revenue will be guided by a panel of elected officials. In Region 5, that includes Dennis Sands, Mayor of Joseph.
Between the availability of more funds and a local voice in the discussion, Joseph is poised to begin pay catchup where its roads are concerned.
However, road repairs are expensive. The best way for a city or county to assure residents and visitors drive on smooth roads is the spend some each year on rotating stretches.
Joseph has not historically adhered to that sort of plan. As a result, it may take local effort –– as in new taxes.
There are no shortage of opportunities. Joseph could levy its own gas tax as 30 cities in Oregon have done. Another option is utility fees, Joseph residents would pay a small amount each month on their water and sewer bills that would be dedicated to roads and streets.
It serves little purpose to discuss at length why Joseph is in the situation it is in when it comes to road repairs. That’s water under the bridge, so to speak.
What’s important now is that the city not squander the best opportunity it will have in decades to resolve the issue, get rid of the potholes and resolve to stay ahead of the issue in decades to come.
“If not now, when?” to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, who was paraphrasing the Jewish Elder Hillel.