Sunday, February 27, 2011

A highlight from my Road Service Area Meeting

When I walked into my Road Service Area meeting five minutes late today, I realized immediately after my introduction that I had walked in on a discussion of when to order plowing.

Apparently, it costs $5300 each time we order all the roads plowed, and we have an annual road maintenance budget of $60000, which also has to account for brush trimming and other road maintenance issues. Quite a few folks were annoyed that the roads hadn't been plowed immediately following Monday's storm. I, too, had been annoyed, but chalked it up to an unusual meteorological situation, the plow crews' likely being super busy, and our little neighborhood getting lower priority due to being outside of Fairbanks proper. Also, just a few months after another unusual meteorological situation--the ice storm--I had a better frame of mind for shrugging my shoulders and deciding to stay home for a day. Of course, I could afford to be patient because (1) I don't own a snowplow and had to shovel my own driveway by hand before I could go anywhere anyway, and (2) as a grad student, my work hours are self-set and extraordinarily flexible. So maybe it isn't fair for me to judge others who were anxious to get into town!

I was a little surprised (though I shouldn't have been, had I given it some thought) to realize that a human being (our neighborhood road service commissioner, who incidentally is a very, very nice man) has to call to order plowing. Having grown up in San Francisco, I am used to road maintenance happening in a more mentally remote way--it just happens without any human--certainly not myself--thinking about it and ordering it. But here was this man sitting before me and my other neighbors, informing us of when he ordered the plowing and on what he'd based this decision--namely, the then-forecast for more snow in the immediate future--and informing us to let him know if we disagreed with him, and were willing to blow more of our budget for more frequent plowing. He was just a phone call away.

He also pointed out, with some melancholy, how recent years seem to have brought more folks to the neighborhood that really seemed to expect they same life they'd have in the city--they wanted to be able to drive 2-wheel drive cars, and very quickly. So of course increasingly frequent plowing was being requested. I was a little surprised at that. I myself am urban-raised, but it never even crossed my mind to move to Fairbanks with a 2-wheel-drive car, let alone Ester! And when the road is so narrowed by berms of snow on either side of the road, I drive slower, instinctively. Yet here we were listening to complaints from born-and-bred Alaskans who insisted that the roads must be plowed as soon as an inch accumulated! That surprised me. Especially since Alaskans as a whole, and rural Alaskans in particular, are as a rule against tax spending. Oh well. That's my report for the day.

But here is a photo of me saying farewell to Norman, who was our family car when I was growing up and became my car when I graduated my undergrad. I sold him and bought a Subaru when I knew I was moving to Fairbanks, because hello?? I knew I'd have to drive on snow and ice!

By the way, Norman has been seen driving around my old 'hood in Mountain View, so I'm happy to report that he is alive and well and has not been stripped for parts!


mdr said...

Wow, Our good old Norman is still at work? I guess cars don't have pensions or social security.

I would vote for plowing more frequently if I were a resident too.

rena said...

Norman's still operating!? Wow!
And look at you in those shorts and tshirt - Norman is truly a Californian car. I'm glad you got a trusty Subaru.

Where does your community's budget come from - general state/county taxes? Or do they pass the hat once a year?

Arvay said...

It comes from a part of property taxes; each neighborhood has its own "special assessment". So more frequent plowing would definitely mean an increase in tax rate to cover such.

I am amazed at how many people request this and that, are upset that they don't get this and that, and then loudly protest any increase in tax rates.

b said...

The difference between Alaskan natives and Alaskan non-natives is the natives did not necessarily choose to live there so they want to make their lives easier in a harsh environment, you know, like normal people? The people who moved there were looking for the "Survivor" (a TV show) experience.

Arvay said...

I think that if you have certain expectations of your road maintenance, you should research a neighborhood before you buy. And if you want to bring change, you need to rally the neighbors, vote it in, and expect a tax increase.

"Normal people" and "survivors" alike need to plan and pay for what they want, not blindly expect it for free. :)