County road repairs could be budget-buster

Staff reporter

What's a county commission supposed to do? Rising fuel prices eat away at a road department budget like fleas on a dog. And just about as annoying.

At Monday's Marion County Commission meeting, the commission and acting public works director John Summerville were trying to figure out a way of improving miles and miles of county roads with only a fraction of money available in the budget.

The long list eventually was whittled down to a do-able list with no one at the table too thrilled about the outcome.

When the pencil was put to the proposed hard road improvements, the total estimated cost had a hefty price tag of $1,618,700.

The road and bridge blacktop budget has $550,000.

Following a rough, wet winter, there are some roads that need to be rebuilt. Others have been rebuilt and now need the continued maintenance to be saved. If only those roads in the most need of attention are saved, the others that have considerable time and money invested would be lost.

And then add the complaints from residents who want THEIR roads done this year.

Quite a dilemma.

In the end, the commission decided to improve the following roads:

— 290th to Ramona.

— 150th between Indigo and K-15.

— Four miles on 330th, west of Tampa to K-15.

— Blade patch Nighthawk Road and see how it holds up.

If there is any money left over, the commission wanted 140th from Sunflower to U.S.-77 improved.

Other roads will be maintained with spot patching.

The cost of materials to make road repairs have sky-rocketed.

Materials to prime and seal a road now will cost approximately $24,500 per mile. A single seal costs $11,600 per mile. The approximate cost for blade patching was $738,200.

A shortage of materials, typically sufficiently stockpiled by the county this time of year, also is causing concern. Neither Martin Marietta Aggregates at Marion nor Florence Rock Company are producing the appropriate rock for road maintenance. The county will have to go to Hamm's Quarry at Woodbine for rock that is $2 per ton higher than paid at a local quarry.

There isn't sufficient blade patch material and there aren't enough millings to make more, Summerville said. The county probably will have to purchase 3,500 to 3,600 tons of cold mix from Junction City. Summerville said he also was considering having the cold mix delivered to the project sites.

In other department business:

— Summerville asked the commission to consider a resolution to make four miles of 180th Road from Old Mill to Kanza, a minimum maintenance road. It was determined that a public hearing had to be held and the resolution published in the official county newspaper.

— Sunflower Road from Marion to U.S.-50 has had a final inspection. Summerville said the road is not satisfactory but "is as good as it's going to get."

Schilling Construction recently returned to make repairs to the road that were not satisfactory when the road was completed.

— The commission agreed that county road and bridge employees need to live in the county. Summerville said he had two applications from people who lived in other counties — both 30 miles away.

Commission chairman Bob Hein said he wanted the employees to live within the county. Commissioner Dan Holub said there have been exceptions when the employees lived "barely across the border but not for 30 miles."

— Utility contractor that damaged a county road will not be expected to pay for damages. Commissioner Randy Dallke said it wasn't fair for the utility company to pay when four-wheelers and others travel on roads when muddy.

— Summerville requested and received a five-minute executive session to discuss personnel. The meeting reconvened with no decisions.