Engineer promotes renewal of sales tax
Union County Engineer Jeff Stauch has traded his work boots and hard hat for dress shoes and a tie, speaking to as many groups as will host him about a quarter-percent sales tax renewal on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Money from the tax would be used for roads and bridges and for senior services.
"The response in the community has been positive," Stauch said. "It's a little easier to define the purpose of the sales tax now that we've had four years to show what we do with it."
That track record includes widening portions of Union County roads such as Rausch, Bellepointe, Hinton Mill, White Stone, Treaty Line, Industrial Parkway and Hoskins.
In addition, 65 miles of county roads have been paved since 2008, safety improvements have been made to several intersections and numerous bridges have been repaired or replaced.
"We don't use the sales tax on personnel or administrative costs" Stauch said. "It goes 100 percent to actually building or repairing things."
Because Union County aggressively pursues grants and low-interest loans for its projects, Stauch said his department has been able to leverage the approximately $3.5 million it has received in sales taxes into more than $7.7 million of resurfacing and construction.
He estimates that at least 40 county intersections remain substandard and require improvements. Similarly, 31 county bridges are more than 50 years old and have exceeded their useful life. Nineteen bridges are structurally deficient and cannot carry legal loads, he said.
"We try to do as many projects ourselves as we can. We can't blacktop a road or build certain kind of bridges," Stauch said. "We use the sales tax dollars for 70 percent of the projects we bid out. So it's scary to think where we'll be if the renewal isn't successful.
"If we didn't have those funds, we'd probably have to adopt more of a Band-Aid approach, maybe go to an every-other-year rotation, do more chip sealing than repav-ing."
If he were inclined to give it a name, Stauch would probably call his recent public speaking schedule the Reminder Tour 2012.
"As time passes and we get farther away from 2008 and the establishment of the quarter-percent sales tax, it's our job to go out and remind residents what it's for, what we've done with the money," he said.
"Our neighbors in Delaware County and Logan County have been successful with their sales tax initiatives because I think people recognize the importance of good local infrastructure, not just from a safety standpoint but also from an economic point of view.
"You need good infrastructure to attract new businesses and to ensure that your agricultural base can succeed," he said.