"The condition of the roads leading into Turlock are something to ponder over, and some of those who are hauling loads over them are doing more than pondering, they are breaking out in speech.
The road leading west of town is an example of bad roads that is a disgrace to a civilized community. It is full of holes and with the amount of traffic over it the road is sure to be in a worse condition. We wish there might be some remedy for the roads as it works a decided hardship on those who will soon be bringing in their melons to market. If there is no money in the road fund, what's the matter with a bond issue? Something must be done."
The paragraph above is from a letter to the editor sent to the Turlock Journal — in 1909. Yes, the bad condition of roads in Turlock is apparently a long-time tradition for this Valley community, as is complaining about it.
I must receive at least one phone call every week from someone complaining about how bad the roads are in Turlock. Inevitably, at the end of these tirades the caller always asks me, why isn't anything being done to repair the roads and why isn't the Journal writing about this? My answers are always the same: "The City doesn't have enough money to fix all the roads;" and "we are."
The math of road repairs is relatively simple. The City sets aside $2 million a year for road repairs. The amount needed repair all the roads in Turlock is $144.9 million. Even if the City spent the next 72 years or so spending $2 million each year to fix roads, deterioration is an ongoing thing. The City would never catch up to a place where all the roads were in good condition.
Another question I field often is: Why are the roads in the newer areas of town always been repaired, while the older sections of town just get worse? This answer is simple, too. It's called an assessment district. Everyone who bought, or will buy, a house in a "newer" neighborhood is required to pay extra taxes to help maintain the roads in that area. The City, by law, cannot use assessment district funds to repair roads anywhere else except those specific neighborhoods.
So, you might be wondering, why can't the City Council just put more money into the road repair fund? Well, the council members could decide to do that. But what would you like to see cut? Fewer police officers on the streets? No more street lighting? The City has already made deep cuts in the past three years due to dwindling revenues; taking more money from other places would result in fewer services to the public.
Okay, so I've now convinced you that the roads are horrible and there's nothing that can be done. Don't despair just yet. The City Council has finally decided to have a real conversation about the condition of the city's roads and repair funding options. Those options are basically: 1. Pay more taxes; and 2. Pay more taxes. There's really no way around it.
The Council should have addressed this issue years ago, but it's my personal opinion that no one wanted to bring up new taxes. Just the thought of asking potential voters to pay more taxes during an economic recession makes most politicians cringe.
But the time has finally come for Turlock to have a grown up talk about the birds and bees; oops, I mean road conditions and new taxes. The City is planning on hosting a series of town hall meetings to allow residents to vent about the roads and present funding options. I encourage everyone who has ever called the Journal to complain about the roads to attend one of these meetings.
I will, however, continue to field calls on the poor condition of Turlock's roads, while maintaining the hope that someday — someday — there will no longer be a reason for Turlockers to complain. Of course, then I'll go back to listening to people complain about the speed bumps on Tuolumne and Minnesota.
This column is the opinion of Kristina Hacker and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.