CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles’ proposal to have at least 50 miles of dirt roads in the north county paved in five years failed to receive the full support of his fellow commissioners Tuesday.


However, the board unanimously agreed to Commissioner Kelly Windes’ substitute road-upgrade proposal.


►PHOTOS: Dirt Roads in Okaloosa County


Instead of using $2 million to pave about 10 miles of dirt roads in each of the next five years, as Boyles suggested, the county plans to spend $1.6 million to pave about eight miles of dirt roads by the end of the current budget year Sept. 30.


Funding would then be reassessed so more miles of dirt road could be improved in later years. The “dirt” substance on the roads is a mixture of sand and clay.


►RELATED: Left in the dust: Boyles wants Okaloosa’s dirt roads paved


Staff soon will prioritize the roads that will be improved first, based on criteria such as traffic counts, the number of residents on each road, cost and ease of construction, county Public Works Director Jason Autrey said.


The money for the upgrades will come from the county’s 10-year local option half-cent sales tax. This voter-approved tax took effect in January 2019, and in its first calendar year generated a total of more than $14.4 million.


At the end of calendar year 2019, the county had an unallocated surplus of about $3.4 million in half-penny sales tax revenue. The unallocated surplus to date is about $7 million.


Boyles had suggested using $2 million from the anticipated annual surplus to make a dent in the county’s roughly 190 miles of dirt roads.


Many of those roads are in Commission District 3, which is represented by Boyles and includes Baker, Holt and part of Crestview. Many others are in District 1, which is represented by Commissioner Graham Fountain and includes the Laurel Hill area and part of Crestview.


Improving the roads would allow safe travel for residents to and from their homes and for public safety vehicles such as ambulances and firetrucks, Boyles said.


In his proposal, 50 or more miles of dirt roads would be stabilized over five years via various techniques, primarily the placement of about 6 inches of lime-rock base, followed with a half-inch layer of liquid asphalt and rock known as chip seal.


While paving one mile of road with traditional hot-mix asphalt is estimated to cost about $1 million, upgrading one mile of road with chip seal is estimated to cost about $200,000.


County-maintained dirt roads are in “a degrading condition” because of a lack of dedicated maintenance and other problems, such as a lack of county-owned clay, Boyles said Tuesday.


Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel expressed various concerns about Boyles’ “50 in 5” proposal.


For example, she said the surplus sales tax money is needed to cover cost overruns in already approved sales tax projects. She also noted that the sales tax is based on visitor spending, which could be threatened by the coronavirus.


Fountain, however, said he agreed with Boyles that “we need to start addressing some of these (dirt) roads.”


Ruts in the roads make it tough for paramedics and sheriff’s deputies to get to emergencies, Fountain said.


“The people in the north part of the county deserve (upgrades to dirt roads) now,” he said.


Commission Chairman Trey Goodwin agreed.


“I don’t think the people of north Okaloosa County want this to be tabled,” he said.