A project to chip seal the Papago Springs neighborhood in Sonoita has been put on hold a er concerns were voiced about the effect of chip sealing on the character of the area and discontent that residents were not informed about, nor given a say in, the project.
Holbrook Dr., Terry Lane, Frazier Dr., Collie Dr. and parts of Papago Springs Rd. had been graded and dirt brought in preparation for the chip sealing, which was to have taken place the end of October, when Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce Bracker received a letter from a resident of the area.
“All of the residents with whom I have spoken, and I suspect there are many more, are disappointed with the fact that they were not given notice that chip sealing was being considered by the Board or given an opportunity to be a part of the decision making process, nor were they noticed about the scheduling of the process or of which roads are being chip sealed,” wrote Nancy Webster, of Sonoita.
Another resident, Carla Peterson, spoke with Bracker, as well, saying that the county should hold a meeting to determine if a majority of the residents wanted this project to go forward. “I started getting calls ten days before the oil was supposed to get here,” Bracker said, saying that we needed to do outreach, talk to people.”
As a result, the project has been suspended. A letter is scheduled to go out to residents within the next 30 days and the county is planning to meet with residents to discuss whether to proceed.
The County Public Works department is “working to preserve the work they’ve done,” according to Bracker. Plans to maintain the surface include the application of a polymer to keep dust down and hold the surface together.
The Papago Springs project is part of the county-wide maintenance plan, Bracker explained. “Overall there’s been a positive response,” he said, citing residents’ satisfaction with the chip sealing of the Mustang Tr. area. The chip sealing is funded by HURF money, federal gasoline tax dollars distributed to cities and counties.
Part of the impetus to chip seal stems from the lack of grader operators. “The reason that we closed the work station [in Sonoita] was because all those guys retired,” Bracker said. “We are having trouble hiring people.” He pointed out that cities and counties overall are having trouble competing with the private sector for workers. The county has contracted William Lorta, of Sonoita, to provide grading services, and plans to continue using him even more going forward. “We’ve used him for several years,” Bracker said. “He’s a tremendous asset as a contractor.”
Objections to the chip sealing in Papago Springs include increased speed- ing and safety issues. “Some people like dirt roads because it is a statement about their rural life,” Bracker said.
“I like being on a dirt road. I don’t want cars speeding by my house. It would give the whole neighborhood a different feeling, but I get why some people want it,” Peterson said. “I just wanted the county to have a meeting to let people know what was going on and take a vote.”
There are residents who are upset that the chip sealing project has not been completed. “I’d like to see them finish the job,” Kurt Boede said. Boede, who lives in the Papago Springs neighborhood, said that all the people he has spoken to want the roads chip sealed. Two people have expressed their concerns about speeding and have suggested the addition of speed tables. “There are no downsides to getting the road paved. Less dust, less asthma, less keeping your house clean, less maintenance costs associated with the chip sealed road,” he said. “Come on, guys, let’s get the road chip sealed. It’s not going to affect your property taxes. They’re going to go up anyway.”