Last updated: January 07. 2014 10:21PM - 406 Views
Ryan Carpe Staff Writer

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DARKE COUNTY – The Darke County Engineer’s office released its annual report for 2013 last week, marking another year of static revenue despite increasing costs.

The purpose of the report is to show the tax money received by the Engineer’s Office, how it was spent, and what was accomplished using that revenue.

The annual fuel tax and license receipts received from the state in 2013 were virtually equal to the amount received in 2006, while the costs of road paving and bridge materials have increased 30 to 55 percent over the same period, which is a consistent concern for the Engineer’s Office.

“We intentionally cut spending last year to meet receipts,” said Darke County Engineer Jim Surber. “Although we’ve tried to maximize every way we can and stretch the dollars, it’s just getting to a place where either the price of roadwork will have to go down or the revenue will have to come up.”

This year’s total expenditures for the year equaled $5,033,532.72, while spending was reduced by $282,764.70 to an amount 3.3 percent below total receipts.

But the savings comes at a cost.

“We weren’t building new bridges as much as we were rehabilitating existing bridges to extend their life,” said Surber. “That’s where the predominance of the savings was.”

The Darke County Engineer’s Office spent 40 cents of each tax dollar for road and bridge improvements, nine cents for maintenance materials, 10 cents for overhead, four cents for equipment purchases, and 37 cents for wages and fringe benefits.

The County Bridge Crew built one new bridge and rehabilitated six bridges on county and township roads in 2013. The design and construction was coordinated entirely by Darke County personnel.

The new bridge built was a galvanized, steel beam bridge superstructure on Worth Road with waterproofed and timber strip deck of 33 feet by 28 feet and was constructed in early 2013.

The amount spent for road paving over the year was nearly 11 times greater than the amount spent for bridge work. In past years, the Engineer’s Office ratio has been about 3 to 1, however the work priority has changed due to the need to prioritize roadways with the available revenue.

Regarding 2013 road improvements, the Darke County Engineer’s Office contracted asphalt resurfacing on 14 different roads totaling 27.76 miles and the microsurfacing of 2.66 miles on five different roads, improving the surface on nearly six percent of the total Darke County road mileage, which is a 17-year paving cycle.

This year also illustrated the highest resurfacing average costs yet, as just four years ago in 2009 the average costs were roughly $5,000 less for each resurfaced mile.

The reason boils down to asphalt’s rising cost.

“It’s a petroleum based product. In my knowledge, there’s been little significant increase ever in the price of asphalt,” said Surber. “When I first started this job we were paving roads two inches thick for $10,000 a mile. Now we’re paving roads an inch and a quarter thick for $60,000 a mile, mostly because of the cost of materials.”

According to the Engineer’s Office, their responsibilities were also magnified in 2013 when they were forced to assume an additional 2.15 miles of road and another bridge on the former State Route 242, which became an obligation by action of the Darke County Commissioners.

“It’s basically an unfunded mandated,” said Surber of the new roadway adoption.

According to the Engineer’s Office a total of $800,000 was provided by the Ohio Department of Transportation for initial improvements to the state route, however no additional funding was allocated for its ongoing maintenance and upkeep.

However, in 2013, the Engineer’s Office provided an estimated $31,070.00 in labor and equipment to 16 townships at no charge, which can include jobs such as culvert replacement, patching roads and cutting trees and brush.

“I do it because I’ve always done it,” said Surber. “It’s something that I’d like to keep doing, but the way things are going it’s getting harder and harder to do.”

The work was a savings to the townships, and was not a cost to the Engineer’s Office other than labor.

Readers are encouraged to contact the Darke County Engineer’s Office with any questions or comments by phone (937-547-7375) or email: dce@earthlink.net.

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