By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
The Wood County Commissioners unanimously Thursday (May 17) voted to increase the cost of getting a license plate by $5.
This will bring the county portion of the fee to$20 or $25 depending on the community. The state fee is $34.50. County Engineer John Musteric said the Permissive License Fee increase will generate an additional $632,660.
That money will all go to road and bridge projects, he said, not for personnel or operating expenses. The county, he said, is facing a shortfall of about $3.7 million meet the needs of county road and bridges.
“This will only be a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps,” Musteric said.
After a study of road conditions, the engineer’s office determined 74 percent of the county roads are in marginal or worse conditions. To address all that work, would take about $6 million a year. The office now spends $2.3 million.
Also, 52 of the county’s 441 bridges, which have an average age of 41 years, are in poor or worse conditions. To catch up, the county would need to replace nine bridges annually, at about $400,000 each. That’s double what it can do.
This comes at a time when the cost of materials is increasing. Musteric said his office has tried to make cost savings where it could, including not replacing employees who leave and doing in-house work that had been outsourced.
One county resident Wade Kemp commented on the license fee increase. He said he supported it but wondered why he had to pay the same amount for his motorcycles as for his truck or his neighbor had to pay for a recreational vehicle.
That is set by the state, assistant county prosecutor Linda Holmes said.
Commissioner Craig LaHote noted that if the state allowed the county to levy an additional 3.2-cent-a-gallon gas tax, it would provide the revenue needed to fully fund the road and bridge repairs. Given the fluctuating price of gas, people wouldn’t even notice it Musteric said.
Kemp noted that as federal fund economy standards go up, and people use less gas that will take a bite out of revenues from the gas tax.
Musteric said that’s especially true with the increasing popularity of electric cars, and hybrids.
LaHote said some states charge more for a license plate for an electric vehicle.
California, Musteric said, charges by weight for registering vehicle.
Board President Doris Herringshaw said that the commissioners did receive a couple telephone calls on the issue, both in favor of the increase.
This was the second of two public hearings on the issue. The first hearing was held last week.
The fee will go into effect sometime around the first of the year after it is reviewed by the state.