Tamworth councillors have been inundated with calls from rural ratepayers about the state of the region’s dirt roads.
Cr Russell Webb’s phone won’t stop buzzing and everyone is telling him the same thing: “Our roads aren’t getting graded like they use to”.
At the moment, council has six grader crews to maintain its 1900km unseal road network. Cr Webb wants council to find money in the upcoming budget to add another grader to the fleet.
“We need to make sure there is another grader on roads carrying out maintenance and getting them to an acceptable level,” he said.
The majority of calls Cr Phil Betts receives were “not about the sealed roads, they’re about the grading program we have”.
“I understand the ramification of changing [the grading program], but we need to really look at it and see if it’s the best fit,” Cr Betts said.
“I know the re-sheeting program has worked quite well in the past, but is that best suited to our ratepayers?”
Cr Jim Maxwell made a commitment to travel every road in the council area during his term.
“I’ve done a fair proportion already and some of them are horrific,” Cr Maxwell said.
“I think it’s something we need to sit down and address.”
Despite living in a residential area, Cr Mark Rodda also receives calls from outer-lying residents with the same concerns.
“I’m no engineer, but I don’t think I would like to travel along those roads in my little sedan each day,” Cr Rodda said.
In November last year, councillors voted to spend an additional $650,000 to tackle the backlog of unsealed road maintenance, after six months of heavy rain battered the dirt road network.
At the time, council had received 476 requests for unsealed road maintenance in six months – more than double over the same period the year before.
On average, council spends $1.8m on gravel re-sheeting or renewing unsealed roads – in the last four years more than 350km have been re-sheeted.