For the past 18 years, Chris Jacobsen has had an estimated 2,200 miles of Custer County roads under his care. Decisions of today, he said, are not the same as they were in 1994 when he accepted the job as Custer County’s Highway Superintendent.
In the early 1990s the surface area of choice was asphalt, today, it may very well be gravel.
He explained. Many of Custer County’s roads were paved in the late 1960s, and early 1970s when oil for asphalt was cheap. In 2012, it is anything but cheap.
Today – if a road does not meet a certain threshold for use, it is being ground down and converted to gravel. On the other side, if a gravel road has heavy use, the gravel has to be leveled out too frequently, and that creates upkeep costs.
“If you build it, you have to maintain it,” Jacobsen added. Four sections of road were ground to gravel in 2011, and several more are on the schedule for the coming year.
Jacobsen explained that it costs approximately $15,000 to armor coat a road, and the cost can go up from there if the road needs repaired first, but the county can convert that same mile to a really good gravel road for $8,000.
“It’s happening everywhere,” he said. “If the road has 150 cars per day or less, we cannot support maintaining the road as asphalt. It doesn’t take long for the Board of Supervisors to do the math. Money is tight. We can only do so much.”
Jacobsen was present Tuesday at the Custer County Board of Supervisors’ meeting to present the End of Year County Highway Report, the 2012 One & Six year Highway Plan, and to discuss a Federal grant for bridge repair.
Projects finished in 2011, and their costs include:
• Two bridges on the Broken Bow-Callaway Road - $84,525.11
• Wykoff Bridge southeast of Gates - $25,083.41
• 10 miles on the Victoria Springs Road south (this project was started in 2008 and completed as the department had time and materials) $473,341.09
• Comstock South – Converted 1.5 miles to gravel - $7,843.84
• Berwyn South – Converted 3.5 miles to gravel - $21,691.07
• Callaway North – Converted a little over 1 mile on Fairview Drive to gravel - $10,060.94
• West Pressey Road – Converted 5 miles to gravel - $42,929.23
Roads on the One & Six Year schedule include the road east of Comstock, Mason City south and the Cozad oil. On the watch list are the Paulsen Road just north of Broken Bow and the Ryno Road. The Boxelder oil south of Ansley will be ground to gravel.
Grant funding is in place to redo two bridges in 2013, a historic truss bridge northeast of Anselmo and a bridge southeast of Ansley. The Nebraska Department of Roads funding for the bridge work is $362,000 and $425,620 respectively. Jacobsen said that Federal law mandates that truss and girder bridges be inspected every 24 months.
In other business conducted at the Tuesday meeting, the supervisors:
• Turned Roads 481 and 1361 back to the Berwyn Township for vacation.
• Appointed Conni Gracey as the county’s Fair Housing Official.
• Approved the Phase II of the Wind Farm decommissioning agreement with adjustments.
• Agreed to pay the Custer County Sheriff’s Office $6,700 for one of their used vehicles, equivalent to its trade-in value. The vehicle will be used by the Assessor, and will replace the vehicle currently used by that department.
• Were informed by auditor Don Wilson that as the county goes forward with Nebraska Department of Roads grants, they will be need to formally approve of all payouts. “In your budget you’ll have to show you received the grant moneys even though you didn’t, and you will have to show you dispersed it out even though you didn’t,” said Wilson.