In an effort to build public trust, the Orchard City town council held the first of several planned public meetings with residents on Wednesday, Oct. 18. In addition to the trustees, 12 members of the community attended.
This meeting was focused on road maintenance, and began with presentation by trustee Gary Tollefson. He pointed out that deferred maintenance of the road infrastructure will cause the cost of repairs to increase as roads wear out gradually. Every dollar spent to keep a road in good condition avoids $6 to $14 needed later to rebuild a deteriorated road. According to Tollefson, chip sealing a road will extends its life 12 to 14 years.
Looking at the budget, the town has, on average, a little over $103,300 available for road maintenance each year for the 34 miles of roads in Orchard City. Over the next 14 years, the town estimates it will spend $12.2 million on roads. The problem is the amount available is not enough to cover the cost of anticipated maintenance costs. Tollefson explained that $157,142 is needed each year to maintain the town's roads.
The meeting was then opened to questions and comments.
Carol Keller asked what the life of a new road was. Trustee Tollefson said 25 years at a cost of $500,00 a mile to build. She also asked what determines whether overlay or chip seal would be needed for the repairs. Tollefson replied it would depend on failed areas of the road. There is an instrument available for grading a road's condition. Currently the plan is for scheduling chip seal only on the roads that have not failed.
County commission and former mayor Don Suppes stated that seven roads have recently had work done. The road bases showed various types of seal (chip seal, asphalt, tar over gravel) in the last 50 to 60 years. No records were kept on the previous sealings, but the current plan intends to include them.
Faye Mills asked why the studies mentioned were from Ohio and Wisconsin. It was explained that studies are done in every state and the studies present were examples.
Doug Keller ask if there were ways to increase motor vehicle fees for licensing. The fees are set by the state and cannot be modified by county or municipal governments.
Faye Mills asked about alternatives to asphalt, such as recycled rubber, and if there was a possibility of grants being available. Commissioner Suppes stated that numerous experiments have been tried, but nothing viable has come out. Grants are very hard to come by.
Doug Keller had questions about the State Gas Tax Fund and if that affected the estimated budget. The Fund has only varied around $2,000 in the years 2014, 2015 and 2016. The state can also reclassify roads depending on the type of road usage. Keller mentioned that the 14-year plan looked good, but some roads need less maintenance and repair. A number of smaller roads have considerably less traffic.
Carol Kettle asked about funding or grants being available. They are not available for this kind of project.
Mike Gage stated that Orchard City has always been able to maintain the roads and why are there increased costs now. Don Suppes explained that CDOT can change a road's specifications. Trustee Tom Huerkamp added that, with the increased use of snow plows during the winter months, there is more road damage. Suppes noted that the mine closures in the county have drastically reduced the Mineral Severance Fund for Delta County.
Tom Huerkamp asked if material costs have gone up with the natural disasters. Since asphalt is an oil-based product, there appears to be no issues at this time.
Faye Mills suggested that the road maintenance committee contact folks in the area that have worked on maintaining roads in the past. The England family and the Benson family were discussed. Mike England is an Orchard City employee and trustee Eckels will contact him for information. Trustee Tollefson said he has been in contact with the Benson brothers.
At the close of the meeting, Doug and Carol Keller expressed that the meeting was beneficial. Other participants agreed. The Town Council plans to hold future town meetings on other topics.