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Service Areas see funding shortage as road conditions worsen

Published: May. 17, 2022 at 7:12 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Erosion, potholes and flooding have stuck roads across the Fairbanks North Star Borough, making some difficult to pass, particularly in rural service areas.

Steven Brefczynski, Becker Ridge Service Area Commissioner, said of Chief John Drive, “They had water coming across the road about a foot and a half deep if not more, and you can’t do anything on a road when there’s that much water.”

He added, “I think we have the second-largest service area in the borough. We have 21.25 miles of road miles of road.”

Brefczynski is responsible for using money raised by taxpayers in his region to keep the roads clear and navigable.

This includes snow removal in the winter and surfacing in the summer.

In his service area, each taxpayer pays between $250 and $350 a year for road services. “Our budget’s about $120,000-125,000 a year, and probably half of that, if not more goes for snow removal.”

But for Brefczynski, this year the money has run out. “I already moved the last amount of money I can out of our reserves. I moved $45,000 over for repairs.”

And this service area is not the only one. Brefczynski said Rural Services told him “other service areas have had to spend their emergency reserves too, because they are in dire straits too with road conditions. It’s everywhere.”

Some stopgap measures are being used to alleviate the problem, according to Brefczynski. “We were out there for three, four hours filling sandbags to keep the water off the road and into the ditch.”

When the next fiscal year begins on July 1, the service area’s budget will once again be available for use, but then a hard choice remains. “If I gotta spend all that money fixing roads, we’ll have nothing for snow removal,” Brefczynski said.

Raising the tax rate may not be an option. Brefczynski continued, “A lot of people don’t want to pay more taxes, and I get that. No one wants to pay more taxes, but we have a very limited amount of money that we can spend on our service area.”

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