DOBSON — New N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) Board Member Jim Palermo had one message for the Surry County Board of Commissioners: Things are tough all over.
The message was delivered during what could be described as a meet and greet with the local board in Dobson Monday night.
Palermo visited the board, introducing himself and saying he is available to hear any concerns they may have.
“I’m trying to meet with all commissioners in the district to let you all know that I’m here to take care of anything on your mind,” he said.
Palermo, a Boone resident, represents District 11, which includes Surry County among the eight counties in the district. He was appointed the the DOT board by Gov. Pat McCrory in January, and was sworn in in April.
While he told the local board members that he was available to address any concerns they may have, the current economic climate has resulted in belt-tightening in Raleigh as well.
“The DOT is experiencing budget issues just like local governments are,” he said.
Palermo said that one of the department’s main sources of revenue is the state gas tax.
“While we have been receiving monies from the gasoline tax, consumption has gone down, meaning we’re receiving less money,” he lamented. “And our second funding source is the sales tax on the purchase of cars.
“We used to see people buying new cars every three years or so, but now we’re seeing them keep cars around 11 years,” he said. “That’s putting quite a pinch on our revenue.”
But Palermo reassured the board that the department is working with the Secretary of Transportation to more efficiently administer the available funds.
“”What we have to do is come up with a way to figure out where we’re going to get the revenue to take care of our roads and transportation infrastructure,” he said.
Following his introduction, Commissioner Paul Johnson asked Palermo about a rumor that the department is seeking to shift the costs of road maintenance to the county level.
“That would really put a hurting on us,” he said.
But Palermo said the idea, briefly broached in Raleigh, was quickly dismissed.
“The state took the maintenance of roads in so they could administer, evenly, the care of the roads in North Carolina,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is even entertaining the concept of it being shifted back to the county level.”
Commissioner Jimmy Miller asked Palermo to see what can be done to cut down some trees blocking the view of Exit 100 off of Interstate 77 onto Route 89, where the county is investing millions to bring sewer service to the Interstates district.
“We’re spending a lot of money on an area we think will see a lot of growth in the future, and we want drivers to be able to see it,” he said.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.