Citizens ranged from angry to suspicious to encouraging during the second public hearing on Belmont County’s possible license plate fee hike.
The proposed $15 increase brought out a surprising number of people, all with strong opinions.
Belmont County hasn’t increased their license plate fee since the 1960s.
One person pointed out, that was before we put a man on the moon.
The county engineer said he has 34 road slips and no money to fix them.
“It’s that desperate right now,” said County Engineer Terry Lively. “We need to have these roads repaired. We’ve got damages all over the county so things are tough right now.”
But senior citizens on fixed incomes were opposed.
“There’s a limit to how much we can take out of our paychecks,” said Esther Kalinoski of Bridgeport. “I’m supposed to be retired. I’m 71. I’m still working two part-time jobs just to maintain prescriptions and health care. There’s just a limit to how much we can put out.”
Others suspected a $15 fee might mysteriously increase.
“You’re putting this sales pitch up right now,” said Pete Kovacs of Union Township. “So if we agree on it, are you going to turn around and start adding stuff onto it that we haven’t agreed on?”
“There’s nothing that could be slipped in or added without the approval of the commissioners,” answered Lively.
One Pease Township trustee said he’s “all for it,” because he said funding won’t be coming from any other source.
“We need to do this,” Mike Bianconi noted. “Washington just isn’t going to do it. And Columbus doesn’t care. The oil and gas money, you don’t get. Property tax money, you don’t get.”
Another man said he doesn’t want to pay more if the roads in his own area never see the benefit.
“Is that just for the riverfront or the cities or other areas?” demanded Ed Kovacs of Union Township. “The western part of the county, it’s like we’re in a different country over there!”
Retired County Engineer Fred Bennett tried to put it all in perspective.
“I know $15 hurts a lot of people,” Bennett noted. “But if you break it down, that’s a dollar and a quarter a month. Now for me, it’s worth a dollar and a quarter to drive on better roads.”
“We’ve got roads that are closed because we can not afford to make the repairs necessary,” added Terry Lively. “They’re gonna remain closed until we do get the funding we need. So in my opinion, the time for debate is over. You know, we either need to maintain these roads or we don’t.”
Commissioners thanked everyone for their time, saying there’s nothing better than a spirited public discussion.
They say they’ll consider everyone’s comments as they make their decision.
They’re expected to decide by either May 23 or 30.