Darke County Engineer’s 2021 annual report

By Jim Surber
Darke County Engineer

GREENVILLE — The Darke County Engineer’s annual report has always been a detailed compilation of all revenue received, where it was spent, and what the expenditure maintained, constructed, or purchased. Compared to the first report of 1978, the revenue and expenditures for the 44th report of 2021 are five times what they were then. The Engineer’s Department has always worked to maximize what its funding purchases, and to report in detail to the taxpayers who provide it.

A notable accomplishment was the completion of a new 23,540 square-foot truck storage building, and attached 2800 square-foot office/employee facility. Construction began in October of 2020, with substantial completion in July, 2021. Funding was 100 percent from highway fund. The facility is used for offices and storage of 24 dump trucks, while our former building, built in 1977-78, will continue to be used for repair and maintenance.

The department received $1,398,493.05 in state and federal grant funding for four projects in 2021, which had been up to five years in the making. The department continues to avoid debt and owns all equipment.

Overhead costs increased for the year due to the rising prices of repair parts and fuel.

Spending for 2021 was $33,093.13 (0.5 percent) less than during 2020, and $344,788.75 (4.6 percent) less than the 2021 receipts.

The department also received a federal grant for pavement marking which was contracted with The Aero-Mark Company for the painting of new centerline/no-passing markings on 259.76 miles of County road, including 22 railroad and school zone markings, and other miscellaneous markings. A grant $38,200 was also awarded to upgrade and improve selected warning, curve, and road name signs on county roads throughout the county, which were all erected by county personnel and equipment.

In addition to maintenance and repair, two new bridges were built on county roads, two new bridges on township roads, and another was rehabilitated. Three new bridges built were galvanized steel beam superstructures with timber decks on concrete abutments. All work, including steel fabrication was done by Darke County personnel.

Planning for a major bridge project on New Fisher-Dangler Rd. over Greenville Creek began in January of 2016, and in 2021, the 16-foot wide bridge over Greenville Creek, a state-designated scenic river, was replaced with a 100 foot-span galvanized steel truss, having a width of 28 feet. Design and engineering was performed by the Darke County Engineer’s Department, with Brumbaugh Construction, a local contractor, performing the work. Eighty percent of the project’s construction cost was paid by federal funds.

Ohio law limits force account bridge construction (construction by county personnel and equipment) to bridges costing under $100,000. This amount was set in 2003, and the increased costs of the past eighteen years now allow only the smallest bridges to be built by the County. Efforts to increase this limit were ignored by state legislators, who settled with an increase equal to the ODOT construction index, which was determined to be 1.7 percent. The cost of many bridge materials has doubled in the last year, which foretells the difficulty to be experienced in future bridge replacements.

The average state sufficiency rating of all 517 bridges is 91.2 percent on Darke County and Township roads. Each bridge is rated from 0-100 based upon its condition and annual inspection. There were 303 bridges in the Excellent range (90-100), 200 in the Good range (70-90), 10 in the Fair range (50-70), and 4 in the Poor range (0-50.) Of the four bridges in poor condition; one is an historic arch structure on a township road, one is limited to bicycle and pedestrian traffic, one is a closed bridge in an incorporated village, and one is owned by the CSX railroad. The average age of the 517 bridges on County and Township roads is 36.0 years.

Maintaining roads and bridges includes many different tasks and responsibilities. The most visible are snow plowing and roadside mowing, but the continual repair and replacement of bridges, signs, maintaining drainage along and through the roads, repairs and clean-up from weather events and vehicular accidents, and the trimming and removal of trees and brush along roads are never-ending tasks. Repairing and sealing cracks in asphalt pavement surfaces to prevent water intrusion is always needed. Our team members chip-seal roads, replace culverts and subsurface crossings, build new bridges, maintain, repair and inspect all bridges, maintain roads, and maintain and repair all County equipment. They perform all road and bridge work except asphalt road resurfacing, and the painting of the yellow and white lines on the pavement.

Please contact the Darke County Engineer’s Dept. at 937-547-7375, or [email protected] with any questions or comments.