Cascadel to partner with Madera County

By Mark Stamas / Guest CommentaryJanuary 23, 2013 

In the Jan. 3 Sierra Star, there was a page one story on a proposed County Road Maintenance District 121 in Cascadel Woods, North Fork. Please allow me to share some additional information that was not in the article.

Since the mid 1960s, residents of Cascadel have been forced to maintain their roads themselves, including snow removal, through fees paid to an association formed in 1963 for social purposes. Half a century later, the subdivision roads are in dire need of repair, the one-lane bridge across Whiskey Creek in the heart of the subdivision needs safety improvements, and two major culverts need replacement.

Thus, last year some Cascadel residents asked District 5 Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler to help in getting a county road maintenance district, which would turn over road maintenance and snow removal to the county, with subdivision residents being billed for those services. Wheeler and the county sought Cascadel residents for a three-member steering committee. The county road proposal has been bitterly opposed by some association directors and an association employee.

The Sierra Star article quoted Cascadel resident Brian Curtis, an opponent of the road district, but failed to state that both Curtis and Stan Eggink, association president, turned down offers to be on the steering committee, and then complained the steering committee members who volunteered were pro-county road district, even though one member is an association board member.

Ballots have been mailed to all 178 affected owners, and unless a majority of the voters oppose, the Board of Supervisors will presumably vote to finalize the road district at a meeting next month.

Here are the arguments in favor of a road district.

1. With a county district, actual ongoing road work will occur. Reserves will accrue. Roads will improve.

2. Cascadel residents with homes currently pay $200 a year for minimal road maintenance and snow removal. Of that $200, more than 50% is used for association overhead costs. With a county district, it will be $151 for homes and $75.50 for lots -- with all funds going directly to road maintenance, with no middleman. Under the current voluntary assessments, not all parcel owners pay.

Under the county, road funds will go on the county property tax bill and everyone contributes. In addition, Cascadel will become eligible for "Measure T" funds, which can provide up to 50% of funding for projects, including the bridge repair. For example, the adjacent Cascadel Heights subdivision has been operating under a county road maintenance district for years, and folks there are happy with the county service. Cascadel Heights has also received Measure T funds for road maintenance this year.

3. Better road maintenance means increased fire and emergency protection and protects property values.

4. A county road district will stop the endless litigation over claimed private ownership of roads in the subdivision. Indeed, the faction opposing a county-run district has already spent nearly $8,000 in legal fees in the current dispute over the road maintenance district. All roads in Cascadel are dedicated or deeded county right of ways. Any disputes will have to be taken up with the county.

5. The Madera County Road Department does nothing but roads. The name says it all. That's what they do. That's what they know. Who better to maintain roads than the local road department? Virtually every other similar neighborhood in Madera County understands this, and already has a road maintenance district. Why not us?

6. The county has all the permits and authorization to do public road work.

7. County road maintenance protects property values and trumps "do-it-yourself" private maintenance, and can result in higher property values. Realtors and home buyers look for a road maintenance district.

8. Insurance companies prefer county maintenance to "do-it-yourself" private maintenance. Insurance rates can drop, insurability increases.

There are many more benefits to a county road maintenance district. Learn more at cascadelinfo.com.

-- Mark Stamas has been a resident of Cascadel Woods for more than 30 years and is a county appointed member of Road Maintenance District 121's initial steering committee.

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