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County can fix flooded roads, but not neighboring property

Brad Williams

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Extreme weather events are not going away, and local governments have to figure out how to pay for repairs after flooding or other disasters. 

La Crosse County highway commissioner Ron Chamberlain had that message for the county board this week, asking them to consider taxes or other charges which could help finance emergency repairs. 

But Chamberlain says the county cannot be responsible for damage that occurs on private property, located along roads in flood areas.

“I want to make sure that the policy makers are aware that when they get the phone calls, which they will and some already have, (that) ‘the highway department is not willing to help me,’ that’s because the highway department can’t help you,” said Chamberlain.

He says cooperative cost sharing between the county and individual communities could be one way to pay for frequent highway repairs. 

Chamberlain says his department can only budget for things that it knows need to be done, and can’t reliably plan for emergencies like floods, which seem to happen every year.