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Crook County, Hahlen Road District closer to an agreement

District considers its options for road improvements
Crook County and representatives from the Hahlen Road District are closer to an agreement to improve Hahlen Road.
   Crook County Counsel Jeff Wilson said district representatives are attempting to improve Hahlen Road to the county's road standards, but he said the cost to the district has increased significantly because of rising oil prices.
   Currently, Hahlen Road is a gravel street, and Wilson said the district's goal was to improve it to county standards so that the county could maintain the 1-mile portion.
   But high costs have entered the picture. The cost to the district is $370,000. Wilson said the district has been able to secure a loan for $132,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Wilson said the district looked at other options, including a chip seal, which would cost $171,000, and he said the district has requested that the county court assist them "in any way possible."
   Crook County Judge Scott Cooper, Wilson, District president John Vaughan, Roadmaster Penny Keller, and Pam Swires from the USDA met on Nov. 9. At that meeting, according to Wilson, Cooper suggested that it may be possible to transfer part of an Oregon Department of Transportation credit from Crook County. Cooper had suggested the credit consist of 3/4 inch minus gravel from an ODOT pit.
   At the Nov. 24 county court meeting, Cooper suggested using a part of the $100,000 ODOT credit to help make up the $40,000 for the chip seal project, with the county furnishing the gravel from the ODOT pit located nearby the Hahlen Road area. Cooper said that this type of asisstance is not usually done, but according to Keller, there is no other use for the credit before the expiration date. It was also pointed out that the district's residents have voted to tax themselves to upgrade their road and the increase in oil costs was not foreseeable when they figured their tax base, and therefore, the district has a unique set of circumstances.
   At the Nov. 24 meeting, Commissioner Mike Mohan had misgivings about using the credit and setting a precedent. He wanted district members to find a way to finance the project themselves, but he was unaware there was no other use for the credit. Cooper said he felt this would send a message to other districts not to approach the county for help unless they first help themselves, and Cooper added that this matter has been on the court's agenda for the past 10 years and the district has worked quite hard to find money and bring the road up to county standards.
   Mohan motioned to have staff draft an agreement with the Hahlen Road District regarding the use of the ODOT credit for chip sealing the road, siting unique circumstances, and to have it signed and returned for a future meeting. The motion was unanimously approved by the court. Commissioner Mike McCabe, however, was unable to attend the Nov. 24 meeting.
   "The next step will be for the agreement to be forwarded to the district for approval and signature and upon return of the signed agreement from the district, it will be presented to the county court for its approval," Wilson said. "If the road is improved to a chip seal standard, it will not meet county road standards."
   "And so the responsibility for continued maintenance will remain with the Hahlen road district. Only after the road is built to an asphalt standard would it be eligible for inclusion in the county's road system and for continued maintenance by the county," Wilson said.
   Cooper suggested that Vaughan contact commissioners Mike
   McCabe and Mike Mohan individually to see if there was a consensus. Mohan preferred that all unpaid road improvements be paid for by the Hahlen Road District residents. McCabe believed that the district's efforts were unique and he and other commissioners said this is a unique situation and that the district residents have agreed to tax themselves.
   However, currently the county does not have any projects to utilize for the ODOT credit. Mohan and Cooper instructed Wilson to draft an agreement that clearly spells out the objectives and the county's responsibilities.
   The road district attorney, John Wolf, has provided documents saying that Hahlen Road has been dedicated to the public by abutting land owners and Wilson pointed out that it's important that the road be dedicated before any county road fund assets can be used.
   Wilson said the district was $40,000 short of building a chip seal and he said the district was planning a chip seal as the "least cost" option. The district will save $3,000 by having the district provide traffic control flaggers. Another $7,000 will be saved by the district purchasing and installing culverts. Also, the district can save another $10,000 by finding a disposal site for earth and rock. Another $5,600 can be saved by not having pavement markings, he said. And the district can save $15,000 by having the county provide 3/4 inch base rock.