DARKE COUNTY — The Darke County Engineer’s Office has released its 39th annual report, covering in detail the department’s finances and projects during the course of 2016.
The report shows money received, all expenditures made, and what was maintained, constructed, purchased, or improved. In all, $5,253,556.04 was spent on Darke County roadways during the year.
Darke County Engineer Jim Surber says 2016 began with a relatively mild winter, and continued with a nice summer, and an excellent fall and early winter. “It was one of the best years for construction in recent memory,” he said.
Acquiring funding to maintain and improve the county’s roads is a perpetual struggle, says Surber.
“While state funding increased $18,622 over 2015, our total receipts were down by $8,280.86. By closely watching expenditures, we were able to finish the year in the black by $61,508.30 which is just over one per cent of the total expenditures,” he said.
Accomplishments for the year, in addition to the normal activities of road and bridge maintenance, included new surfaces on 48.6 miles of road, sealing of cracks on 27.9 miles, six new bridges constructed, and six bridges rehabilitated or repaired.
In August, the Darke County Commissioners enacted a controversial $10 permissive fee on vehicle licenses that will begin to be collected in 2018. In addition to the county, this will also provide greatly needed road and street funding for townships, villages and the City of Greenville.
“By mutual agreement of the commissioners and I, the additional money for county roads and bridges will be delayed until possibly 2020; but additional funds delayed are, of course, far better than none. It is definitely a positive step for local infrastructure, which has been severely neglected by our state and federal lawmakers,” said Surber.
“Our most difficult challenge is maintaining 521 miles of asphalt pavement surfaces. With stagnant revenue for the past ten years, we must constantly deal with ever-rising prices of road materials and equipment. While sometimes unpopular, our decisions and actions must always be in the best interest of the roads and bridges,” the county engineer added.
Surber said the county’s employees continue to do a great job with road maintenance and bridge construction responsibilities.
“We are surface-sealing roads with county personnel and equipment and plan to upgrade the machinery for this process which has become much more prevalent due to high paving costs and static revenue,” he explained, noting that employee numbers in the Engineer’s Office and Highway Department (3.6 and 26) are much less than most Ohio counties.
“We have always worked to maximize the amount of funding spent on road and bridge improvements. For 2016, the amount was $2,016,461.92, or 38.4% of total expenditures,” he said.
Taking care of roads and bridges involves many different tasks and responsibilities, Surber says. While the most obvious are snow plowing and roadside mowing; the maintenance and repair of signs, the drainage along and through the roads, and the pruning and removal of trees and brush along roads are all constant obligations. Sealing of cracked road pavement surfaces to prevent water intrusion is a never-ending task in all but the winter months. The county’s employees chip-seal roads, build new bridges and culverts, maintain and repair bridges, maintain and repair all county equipment, and perform all types of road and bridge work with the exceptions of asphalt paving and the painting of yellow and white lines on the pavement.
Two Darke County bridge crews built five new bridges, one large culvert, rehabilitated five bridges, and performed repairs and maintenance on one bridge in 2016. One new bridge was constructed by contract. All design and construction was by county personnel, and all funding for these projects was 100 percent local, with the exception of the new Center Street Bridge in Versailles.
Remarking on road improvements during 2016, Surber explained that it is more cost efficient to surface seal roads than to pave them.
“We contracted asphalt resurfacing with Walls Brothers Asphalt on eight different roads totaling 18.41 miles, which was just over 3 percent of the total Darke County road mileage (521.097 miles). Due to economic necessity, we are now forced to use surface sealing in order to prevent degradation of pavements by age and freeze-thaw,” he said. “While never popular, this process does cover over five times the surface area per unit cost compared to paving.”
Chip-seal was applied to 14.04 miles in cooperation with the Mercer County Engineer, and on 12.28 miles through contracts with Wagner Paving and Ray Hensley, Inc. County workers and equipment completed 3.87 miles.
“Without additional funding, surface sealing, in addition to paving, must be used to periodically preserve all the road surfaces. We again appreciate the cooperative effort extended by the Mercer County Engineer and his staff,” Surber said.
Surber pointed out that the challenges faced on local roads are shared by township trustees, villages and cities.
For questions, comments or to see a detailed report, readers may contact the Darke County Engineer’s Office by phone at 937-547-7375 or by email at [email protected]