Paving problems: Townships struggle with damage they say is caused by dairy farms

WAYNE — Safety issues have led the Portage Township Trustees to start talking about fixing the 4 miles of gravel road on Bloomdale Road and Greensburg Pike, but costs related to dairy farm traffic are too high for paving and the problem is getting bigger.

“We don’t want to put that kind of money into something that’s going to continuously happen,” Trustee Don Zeigler said.

The BB Land dairy on Bloomdale Road has regular traffic from grain and silage haulers, as well as front end loaders. The Wood County Sheriff’s Office has found that the haulers they have weighed are usually under the 80,000-pound legal limit, but occasionally exceed the 6,000-pound variance.

Ziegler said he accepts that it’s legal traffic, but that the roads can’t handle the volume of that weight limit-level traffic. The result is roads with large potholes and crumbling sides.

“It’s a big nuisance. I’m on the fire department and I’ve had to go down that road to an emergency. It’s not a fun ride in a fire truck. That’s where the whole thing lies with me. It’s a safety issue. It’s our responsibility as trustees to make it passable, but our hands are tied with what we can do,” Zeigler said.

The township is limited by tax dollars.

Wood County Auditor Matt Oestreich said that the main BB Land property has a full market taxable value of $1.9 million, which is equivalent to one house of the same value, but without the traffic.

BB Land annually pays into three levies, a road district collecting $1,213 and two road improvements collecting a combined $908, for a total of $2,121.

The three levies annually total $152,469 for the entire township.

Zeigler said the township has looked into all the parcels owned by BB Land, which he described as having additional outbuildings. Combined, they would approximately double the size of their property.

Oestreich said that some percentage of the $1,425 in property taxes that BB Land pays to the county general fund also goes into road repair, but most is distributed across the county.

Additionally, the township receives approximately $14,500 revenue, per month, from fuel and automobile registration taxes, but the amount varies from month to month.

“We have 3 miles of road that we turned to stone, because the pavement got busted up so bad. We ground the road up and laid it back down,” Ziegler said in a previous interview.

It cost $46,000 to do that change about six years ago. To replace a 40-foot section of an intersection with full paving was recently estimated at $9,000. Ziegler estimated that cost to be about 20% higher now.

Their entire annual road budget is about $180,000, to cover 59 miles of roads.

They have since ground up an additional mile of Greensburg Pike.

Oestreich estimated that the township might be able to rebuild 2 miles of gravel sections per year, if the other 57 miles were ignored.

However, the hidden cost is the travel of the heavy dairy vehicles through townships that are not able to collect property taxes from the dairy.

The township has asked the BB Land dairy to help in purchasing a road grader. Because of the poor condition of the road, BB Land instead bought more ground asphalt, but Zeigler said that it was a temporary fix.

The BB Land LLC dairy in Portage was recently allowed to expand from approximately 3,000 head to more than 5,000.

Reyskens Dairy Leasing, on Cygnet Road in Jackson Township, is also growing. It’s getting ready to expand with more than a 1,000 head of cattle coming in, according to Jackson Township Trustee Greg Panning.

He said that about a mile of Cygnet Road is also now gravel.

Panning said that his family farms and he understands farm industry issues.

“You gotta have milk. I probably drink a gallon a week,” Panning said.

He’s also a sheriff’s deputy, so he travels a lot of county roads.

“Everything is getting bigger,” Panning said. “The industry has gotten so big, that you need bigger equipment and more equipment. I’m not against the dairy, by any means, but what’s the way for us to sit at the table together and figure out a solution?”

He would like to have the dairy work together with the township, as well as the Ohio Department of Agriculture, who does the permitting for the large dairy farms.

“You name it, we’ve talked to them,” Panning said.

He doesn’t just blame the dairy for the township road problems. They also have traffic from the neighboring intermodal rail shipping.

Jackson Township has 69.1 miles of roads to manage with about $100,000 in the annual road budget.