Belmont County commissioners should use part of the windfall they are receiving from drilling leases to repair some county roads. But Commissioner Mark Thomas is right to want specifics on just how the money would be used.
Some county roads are in deplorable condition, largely because of severe weather last winter. County Engineer Fred Bennett has pointed out his department's ability to do something about that is limited. Bennett said his agency operates on annual budgets of about $4.5 million.
Ironically, the weather last winter will make it even more difficult than in normal years for Bennett to undertake major repair and/or repaving projects. Bad weather forced his department to spend more than normal on snow and ice removal.
It has been suggested commissioners should use part of the proceeds from leasing county mineral rights to repair roads. That is a good idea, which came up again during a commissioners meeting this week.
Commissioners already have supplemented Bennett's budget for this year, it was pointed out. But Thomas said commissioners may be willing to provide another $1 million for road repairs.
That will not go far, by Bennett's estimate. He said paving costs have more than tripled during the past decade.
Thomas was critical of Bennett's department this week, saying he doesn't understand "why the roads aren't more properly maintained." He added that before giving the agency $1 million, he wants to see a plan "on which roads are going to be done and why, a maintenance plan that goes with it and where (Bennett's) budgetary monies go."
Obviously, there is some friction between Bennett and Thomas. That should not stand in the way of Bennett preparing the requested proposal. Commissioners are right to want to know how taxpayers' money will be spent.
The sooner a plan is presented to commissioners, the sooner some county roads can be repaired.