Miami County engineer asks commissioners to OK $5 license fee hike

Those responsible for caring for Miami County’s roads are pleased they’ve been able to expand the county paving program in recent years, but could do a lot more with an added $5 annual license fee allowed by the state legislature, County Engineer Paul Huelskamp said Tuesday, in presenting his annual report.

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Huelskamp “respectfully” requested the county commissioners to consider an August 2017 letter he submitted discussing the provision to add onto the annual vehicle registration fee, a move he said would generate another $600,000 each year.

The $5 added tax to register a vehicle was approved last month in Montgomery County, where it will become effective Jan. 1, 2019 and is expected to raise $2 million more annually for projects.

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The commissioners heard Huelskamp’s report and commended his department for its efforts, particularly the leveraging of local funds with state and federal grants for road and bridge projects. The commissioners did not discuss the fee proposal Tuesday. The state law allows counties, but not other governments, to pass the tax following public hearings.

In the annual report, Huelskamp said the county paved 24.55 miles in 2017 at a cost of $1,642,670. He noted, though, the county has 423.5 miles of roads under its care and the industry standard for paving cycles is 10 years. To meet that standard, the county would need to pave about 42.35 miles per year.

In the 2017 letter, Huelskamp said the added money would help the county to get to a 15-year cycle.

Commissioner Greg Simmons asked what other counties had taken advantage of the additional tax.

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The $5 added tax has been passed by several larger counties while a few others have scheduled required public hearings.

“The larger counties are the ones that have already (passed the tax),” Huelskamp said.

The county the past couple of years could pave more miles because of mild winters and aggressive pursuit of alternative funding, Huelskamp said. Lower salt costs were a factor. This winter, the county spent $250,427 through Feb. 7 on snow removal.

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