Rising costs limit maintenance on county roads


GREENVILLE — Darke County Engineer Jim Surber P.E., P.S., recently released his report for 2023. According to Surber, the report shows all money received for the year, where it was spent, and what it maintained, constructed, purchased, or improved.

According to the report, price increases continue to erode the purchasing power of the additional revenue the county received from the increased Ohio fuel tax in 2019. The engineer’s department took in $7,569,377.02 in 2023 compared to $7,140,496.94 in 2022. The county receives funding for roads, bridges, culverts, etc. from the fuel tax, motor license fees, motor license-permissive, sales (salt and grits), recycling, reimbursements (i.e. fuel), and interest. The county also received a $4,562.34 reimbursement from Workers Compensation and $74,446.13 from other reimbursements.

Spending was also up with county spending $7,218,760.81 compared to $6,982,996.02 in 2022. According to Surber, spending was up 3.4 percent over 2022 but 4.8 percent less than the 2023 receipts. The biggest expense for the engineer was resurfacing and chip sealing Darke County roadways at $2,792,676.46. Wages and salaries were next in line at $1,597,041.29 with fringe benefits totaling $630,245.67. Equipment purchases exceeded the half million-dollar mark at $615,461. According to Surber, his department continues to avoid debt and owns all equipment.

Additional expenditures include bridge construction and maintenance, $53,138.37; tools, parts and repair, $306,083.04, fuel for all county departments, $341,591.39; utilities and building maintenance, $65,684.13; road maintenance materials, $446,895.54; and pavement marking, $369,943.92.

Surber pointed out that the Ohio Department of Transportation did a survey of the county roads and revealed the total road mileage has increased to 524.737. The county has listed the total mileage as 522.297 miles for many years.

Improvements made in 2023 include 29.30 miles of road resurfaced, 17.58 miles were chip sealed, one new bridge was constructed, seven bridges were repaired, one major culvert was replaced, 208.10 road miles received centerline striping and 359.56 lane miles received edge line striping.

New equipment purchased included two snow plows, a Tiger TR 60 Boom Mower, two Kenworth tandem dump trucks (the trucks were paid for in 2022), a Hitachi ZW180 Loader, a shoulder reclaimer, and two Dodge pickup trucks.

Surber said, “We contracted 29.30 miles of asphalt resurfacing with Walls Brothers Asphalt Co. on eight roads during the year at an average cost of $103,231 per mile. Our crew applied chip seal and fog seal to 17.58 miles on 10 different roads with an average material cost of $15,244 per mile, using county labor and equipment. The cost differential between the two application types was 6.8 to 1, and both methods are used to enable us to timely preserve and improve the surfaces of about 50 miles of road per year with available revenues.” The engineer said the goal is to renew the surface of each road every 10 to 12 years.

The county and townships continue to work cooperatively. During 2023, the highway department provided $7,704.50 of labor and equipment to seven townships, and $99,462.37 to seven townships that was reimbursed. This work included widening two roads, and the replacement of six roadway culverts and three subsurface conduits in four townships. The trustees of Richland and Brown Townships furnished the new asphalt surfaces for bridges on Horner and Elroy-Ansonia Roads.

They also completed a shoulder-widening project with culvert replacements on a one-mile section of Johnson Road in Wabash Township, at a cost of $40,613.70. In Twin Township, they performed a shoulder-widening project on 1.57 miles of the Darke-Preble County Line Road, including culvert replacements and brush removal with a total cost of $41,615.84.

The engineer’s department also provided the specifications and bidding process for the asphalt paving of 10 different township roads in eight different townships, totaling 9.564 miles with a total bid price of $988,364.80. Additionally, we applied, formulated and coordinated a joint County/Township paving project, assisted through OPWC. This involved the asphalt paving of 11 township roads in 10 townships, which totaled 13.252 miles. The total project was $1,330,562.50 which was supplemented with a $400,000 grant from OPWC. They also coordinated and supervised the application of 56.23 miles of centerline and 15.80 lane-miles of edge-line pavement markings for 12 different townships and the Village of Versailles at a contracted cost of $38,436.06.

The county also applied for and received a grant of $30,400 to upgrade and improve selected warning and road name signs on county roads throughout the county. The grant was supplemented with $7,600 of local funds, making a total project of $38,000. This amount was used to purchase 712 warning signs, 324 road name signs, and 300 sign posts, which were all erected by county personnel and equipment.

The county’s bridge crew rehabilitated a major bridge on Horner Road, built a new bridge on a township road (Elroy-Ansonia), and performed major sub-structure repairs to large bridges on Beamsville-Webster Road and Jaysville-St. Johns Roads. They also made superstructure repairs to four other bridges. All design and construction were by county personnel. Most of the materials for the first two projects (Horner and Elroy-Ansonia) were purchased and paid for in 2022.

An 83-year-old bridge on Meeker Road, south of the Greenville City Limits, is in the planning and design phase to be replaced in 2025. Subsurface investigations were made by drilling to determine the foundation design at a cost yet to be determined. There have been 439 new bridges have been built on Darke County and township roads since 1977.

Surber added, “The maintenance and upkeep of roads and bridges demands 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 under 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 service and repair all County equipment. They perform all types of road and bridge work except asphalt road resurfacing and the painting of the yellow and white lines on the pavement.”

The department includes the county engineer and 29 personnel; with 26 at the highway department and three at the courthouse office. The office performs surveying, design, all bridge inspections, contract management, clerical and payroll, maintains tax maps, and reviews and approves all deed transfers and new land surveys.

To receive a copy of the Darke County Engineer’s annual report for 2023, email [email protected].

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