When Jason Stanford was 12 years old, County Road 219A was a dangerous, pothole-filled road that connected the communities of Melrose and Hawthorne.
Stanford is 40 now, and although he attends Hawthorne City Commission meetings and demands that the road be improved, not much has changed in the past 28 years, he said.
“These people have been saying they’re going to pave this road forever, and they keep saying it’s on the list,” Stanford said. “Little to nothing has been done to it.”
County Road 219A is a bumpy, winding road that runs through farmland in east Alachua County. According to Alachua County Transportation Manager Brian Singleton, the road has not been rebuilt since the 1970s.
Residents said the road, which is the only way to travel directly from Melrose to Hawthorne, has been in a state of disrepair for years.
“If you measured (219A) against automobiles… it would be a Model T,” said Gilbert Randall, a 63-year-old Hawthorne resident. “If you’re driving down the road, you have to constantly look to avoid potholes. And in doing that, sometimes you don’t look at the oncoming traffic.”
When Stanford was in high school, he remembers his grandfather, who was born in LaCrosse but ran a volunteer fire station in Melrose, complain about the dangers of 219A.
“I remember stories about the road being so narrow and so dark that you come around the corner, even if you’re not speeding, even if you’re not joyriding, you could have an accident,” Stanford said.
The road has topped the Hawthorne City Commission’s priority list every time roads have been discussed in Hawthorne’s City Hall, Hawthorne Mayor Matthew Surrency said.
Usually, the meetings end the same, Stanford said. Patchwork and temporary fixes are ordered, even though residents have been begging for an overhaul of the road for years.
Surrency said he receives continuous complaints about 219A, and that the road is dangerous and needs immediate attention.
However, because 219A belongs to Alachua County and not the city of Hawthorne, it falls on the county to provide funding for a new road, Surrency said.
Lately, the money hasn’t been available, Surrency said.
Alachua pulls from the county’s gas tax to help rebuild and maintain worn-down roads. According to Surrency, the money that is collected from the gas tax isn’t enough to sufficiently address 219A’s problems.
“It’s a regular issue. Every time we talk about roads on the east side of the county, that’s one of the first roads that we bring up,” Surrency said. “If the county had the funding, I’m certain they would be happy to do it.”
The lack of funding is what residents like Randall and Stanford have been hearing for years.
“I don’t want to hear there’s not enough money,” Stanford said. “I want to hear what you are doing to fix it.”
Stanford and Randall believe no plans are in place to rebuild 219A in the immediate future, and they blame Alachua County’s elected officials.
“Not every road in Alacuha County deserves to be paved,” Stanford said. “But these are roads that have been neglected for a long time, and we would like some honesty.”