County urges patience on roads

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Damage from rains extensive

By Martin Salazar

The persistent rain storms that hammered San Miguel County from July through September made a mess of roads throughout the area, a mess that county road crews are still trying to clean up.

Harold Garcia, the county’s public works supervisor, said last week that his crews have been putting in lots of overtime since July. Until recently, they were also working through the weekend, he said.

Despite complaints from some to the contrary, Garcia said all county roads are passable right now, although he acknowledges that much more work is needed.

“We’ve made each road passable...,” he said, adding, “I would caution people to be very careful on many roads we have.”

San Miguel County Commissioner Ron Ortega acknowledged the work that remains to be done during last week’s County Commission meeting.

“We know there’s damage to roads. We’re working on it,” he said. “Be patient.”

Commissioners thanked public works employees for the hours they’ve put in over the last several weeks trying to address the issue.

Garcia, during an interview with the Optic after the Commission meeting, noted that the county has 512 miles of roads to maintain. He said part of the problem has been that as soon as county crews finished with a road, a heavy rainstorm would come and damage it again. He said the weekend of Oct. 5 was the first weekend his road employees had off since the first week in July.

“From July on, we’ve had a lot of guys who had 30 hours of overtime in one week,” he said.

The county has also reached out to two contractors, Hays Plumbing and Rocky Road, for help on its roads. County staff have also been working with engineers on road and bridge repairs. One bridge that was damaged  by flooding in August was the County Road 23 Bridge, also known as the Storrie Project Bridge. It has been closed to the public since then, and Garcia said the county has an engineer working on it.

He said that since July, the county has not been able to do any road maintenance because it’s been focusing on repairs.
““Be patient, and please be safe,” Garcia said. “We’re far from done as far as the repairs.”

County officials are now hoping for a federal disaster declaration to cover the cost of the damage caused by the Sept. 13 flooding, which washed out culverts and caused other significant damage. If that designation comes through, the federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost, with the state and county splitting the remaining 25 percent.