For Some, Pothole Repair a Never-Ending Battle

Potholes in front of storefronts in the Seven Lakes Business Center, Photo by Maggie Beamguard


About once a quarter, Seven Lakes business owners roll up their sleeves and take to the pavement, patching the potholes in the roads around their storefronts. 

It’s like an endless game of whack-a-mole.

“The roads right now are at a level where they are almost unrepairable,” says Ed Hill, president of the Seven Lakes Business Guild. “There’s a pothole everyday that pops up, and if you fill it, there is one that pops up right next to it.”

The roads in and around the Seven Lakes Business Center are held privately by a nonprofit, the Seven Lakes Road Association.

“It doesn’t really have any members and doesn’t really have any money,” said Hill. The Business Guild contributes to the account through fundraising efforts, private donations and a membership drive. All of the funds are used for road repair.

The Department of Transportation does not provide maintenance for private roads, so it’s up to the business owners to keep them drivable.

Completely repaving the roads is cost prohibitive. About two years ago, the Guild received an estimate of around $280,000 to lay new asphalt.

“We actually went to the bank and looked at trying to take out a loan and who is going to secure the loan. It was going to be an extremely expensive project. And we couldn’t find 20 people to secure the loan.”

Hill believes the repaving cost may have doubled since that original estimate, given increased construction costs and inflation. 

A paving company was used to fix the potholes previously, but that cost between $5,000 and $8,000 and lasted around six months. When COVID-19 hit, the Guild recognized that its fundraising efforts would fall short. That’s when members decided to do it themselves.

“It’s actually been just as successful,” said Hill. “There’s a couple of times when the pothole is too big for asphalt patch and we have to get something to put in, but for the most part we can patch it.”

Guild volunteers get out there with asphalt patch about three or four times a year. Hill says he has participated just about every time.

“We go out and get every single pothole we can find and put gravel in it and then patchwork and tamp it down,” he said.

There is an added benefit to the sweat equity.

“It’s fun because it gets a lot of the business leaders in the community together for an hour and a half to two hours.”

Past fundraising efforts have included benefit concerts, chili cookoffs and a Go-Fund-Me page. According to Hill, they tend to take in about $1,500 per event. Additional funds come from a Guild membership drive. But that drive has been delayed in recent years by the disruption of Covid.

There are plans for a chili cook-off this fall in coordination with a wider community event on the Southside and to revitalize the membership drive. “Luckly, we’ve had some private donors that have given us enough to do the asphalt patch,” Hill said.

Unless a source of significant funds becomes available, the business owners will be patching potholes indefinitely as the roads continue to deteriorate. 

Hill attributes the infrastructure decay to a combination of factors, but he believes the main issue is heavy trucks.

“The roads were not built to withstand 18-wheelers up and down them every day,” he said. “There are businesses that require delivery that have heavier vehicles. I think the combination between the sand and the heavier vehicles driving up and down them is the reason we are having so many issues.”

The Business Guild had hoped some state relief would be forthcoming with the widening of Highway 211. “We’ve had plenty of meetings with the DOT to try to get them to pave these roads and take them over at the state level,” Hill said.

Initially, it looked like Trade Street to MacDougall might be used as a detour during the 211 project. But initial excitement that those roads would get repaved as a result quickly faded.

“The DOT said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that. We don’t have any money to pave the road. So we’re going to bypass everything, and we’re not going to detour,’” said Hill.

Matthew Kitchen, district engineer with DOT, confirmed that the business center roads will not be used as detours during the 211 project.

“Any detour for road construction will be directed onto state-maintained roadways,” he said. “Unfortunately, NCDOT cannot use state funds to work on or pave any roadways that are not on the NCDOT state maintained system.”

Hill knows the Business Center roads are rocky, but he hopes the community understands the challenges they face where the rubber meets the road.

“We’re trying,” he said, “to do the best that we can.”

Contact Maggie Beamguard at