County commissioners and Gov. Sam Brownback made it official Friday: county roads, at least the dirt and gravel ones, are a disaster.
Marion County and 43 other water-logged counties were designated by the governor as disaster areas because of recent heavy rains and flooding.
County crews have had difficulty assessing the extent of the damage, road and bridge supervisor Randy Crawford said.
“About every gravel road has damage, and that’s what’s scary,” he said. “The problem we have right now is that it’s throughout the whole county. It’s hard to say what’s all been done until the water recedes. The key factor is seeing what the water’s covering up.”
Emergency management director Randy Frank said he’s aware of extensive damage.
“Road damage, culverts completely washed out, roads impassable, log jams in the rivers, and we now have a sinkhole,” he said. “The saturation is unbelievable.”
Frank is responsible for putting together a detailed list of projects eligible for disaster assistance. He said repairs to areas that can’t be immediately assessed still can be funded.
“We can go back and review them when we can get in there,” Frank said. “There are some places I won’t even try right now.”
Federal disaster aid, if forthcoming, would pay up to 75 percent of the cost of restoring damaged roads, culverts, and bridges. Another 10 percent would come from the state. Since large portions of the country have been affected by severe weather, aid could be slow in coming, Frank said.
“Right now Texas has something we don’t have — life safety issues,” he said. “They have a higher need than we do at this moment. They should truly take care of them first.”
If federal aid comes through, Crawford is worried about how the county will come up with its 15 percent.
“The problem is that the budget is already set for this year,” Crawford said. “That money is not here; that money is not budgeted for. What wasn’t a problem a month ago is a problem now.
“I’ve got June, July, and August to lay 4,000 tons of asphalt throughout the county, and that’s a seasonal thing. We need the rock now. We need the money now. I have to proceed with my asphalt. I have to proceed with my rock and try to make do with what we have.”
Rain abated over the weekend, but Frank reminded drivers many roads would continue to have problems.
“Some of these roads will not be passable,” he said. “If you get stuck down there you’re going to stay because we can’t get you out. If you’re not familiar with the roads, take the good ones.”