If you live along a gravel road in Greene County, there's a pretty good chance it's in bad shape.
Actually, Greene County Highway Superintendent Mike Hennette will use a much stronger word if you ask him: Terrible.
Hennette and his 32 full-time highway department employees see the problems daily. Unfortunately, there's only so much they can do because their hands are tied.
The highway department has $225,000 appropriated for stone this year, but that doesn't mean the state won't take some of that money back. A year ago during the summer, the state took $532,000 out of the county's Motor Vehicle Highway Fund.
"It hurts tremendously," Hennette said of not being able to have enough money to properly maintain the 500-or-so miles of gravel roads in the county. "Our gravel roads are by no means up to the standards they ought to be. We don't have the money to bring them up to the standards we would like.
"It's past frustrating ... it's pathetic. I feel sorry for these people and what they have to put up with."
Hennette advises those who live along gravel roads and need help to call his department. They will do what they can.
"They've got to call us. We'll do what we can to help them. We're keeping the big loads off the roads. We've got a 10-ton limit on the roads."
Hennette said that if you take the $225,000 that's appropriated for stone, divide that by $10 per ton for stone, that's 22,500 tons. He says that's not nearly enough to maintain the county's gravel roads.
The highway department has 32 employees who work 36 hours per week. They work 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday (not counting lunches), and eight hours on Friday.
Hennette said his department, though handicapped because of budget cuts, will continue to do the best it can to address the poor conditions. He added that his stone budget for 2010 was cut "between 65 and 75 percent. We could put a quarter of a million dollars of stone on our gravel roads, and that's not enough.
"We're actually out spreading stone. But our gravel roads, they're a disaster. We know that, and we're trying to remedy that."
Hennette added that two school busses -- one from Linton and one from White River Valley -- recently got stuck in muddy conditions on gravel roads.
Hennette doesn't expect the gravel roads to get much better in the near future.
"Once these roads thaw out and we get the spring rains, we have got to have some kind of stone material to put on them," Hennette explained. "They're not good.
"We didn't put hardly any stone on them last year, so it's not going to get any better."
Some county farmers have stepped up to help clear roads of snow, and they're also helping with the gravel roads.
"We've had some farmers who bought stone, and that's great. I appreciate that very much. That just helps us that much more," Hennette said.
Hennette stressed that he wants county residents to contact his department if their gravel road needs attention, and his employees will address it as soon as possible. If it's an emergency situation, it will receive quick attention.
He also has another suggestion.
"People need to write the Legislature (state representatives and senators). They need to let those people know we need help here in Greene County. It's not going to get any better," Hennette emphasized.
For now, Hennette and his employees will do the best they can and hope for a dry spring.
"But we can't always rely on the Man upstairs for that (no rain). I believe in Him, and trust Him. But we have to help ourselves," Hennette said. "We have to work together as a community to get through this."
Chris is the general manager/editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .