Large population means unpaved roads are a growing concern

County supervisors review requests for new grader, personnel

West Antelope Drive near Chino Valley is a county road in such bad shape that signs warn drivers at both entrances. (Sue Tone/Review)

West Antelope Drive near Chino Valley is a county road in such bad shape that signs warn drivers at both entrances. (Sue Tone/Review)

This past 2016-2017 fiscal year was a tough one for county roads, Public Works Director Byron Jaspers told the county board of supervisors during budget talks April 26.

“We had lots of snow and a lot of repairs,” Jaspers said.

The economy appears to have stabilized and gas prices remain low, which has resulted in a moderate growth in revenues received through Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF). This fund, collected from gas tax and vehicle license tax from across the state, pays for operation and maintenance of county roads.

The county has carried over the small increase the past two or three years and used that money to reduce the fund balance. However, the larger than average increase of 10 percent in FY2016-17 will maintain a projected flat budget for the upcoming two or three years, Jaspers said.

The most cost effective way to maintain paved roadways is to provide chip seal every six to eight years at a cost of about $3.5 million per year paid through HURF and Regional Roads funding. This coming year’s budget reflects a decrease to $2.5 million, and a reduction in other future projects including the unpaved roadway paving program.

Unpaved Roads

Unpaved roads are receiving more traffic as the county population expands, yet its budget has remained the same for years, Jaspers said. This past year, because of worsening conditions and increased calls for service, the department increased its funding for maintenance.

Ten operators take care of 10 grader routes, each between 70 and 100 miles. Each grader is used all day, every day, for seven years, at which time the contracted company buys back the equipment.

“It’s all covered by warranty, and works out very well,” Jaspers told the board.

He is requesting one more grader with a cost of $396,000, which will decrease routes to about 75 miles each, and also to upgrade an existing vacant Equipment Operator II position to Road Construction Supervisor at a cost of $18,233. Currently, supervision of the grader routes are split amongst paved roads foremen.

Public Works also oversees Emergency Management and Solid Wastes departments and airports.

Jasper also reported on the need to replace three fuel tanks that don’t meet current state standards at a cost of $239,802; two air conditioning recovery and recycling machines for $6,146; equipment to video conference between the Prescott and Verde maintenance divisions at $18,000; and two compressor dryers to trap damaging condensation for $7,086.

Transfer Stations

The county has experienced vandalism and theft of generators and air conditioning units at some of the more isolated transfer stations. It has been replacing older sheds with Mobile Mini Units, which appear to be the safest and most secure storage units. Of the three new units used over six years, there have been no incidences of fire, theft or vandalism.

The Bagdad station’s current shed needs replacement at a cost of $40,000, split between the state Tire Fund and the General Fund.

About 86 percent of transfer station costs are recovered by fees, Jasper said. Supervisor Tom Thurman asked about keeping stations open an extra day.

During the special 44 clean-up days the county conducts, employees earn overtime. However, two extra employees would cost about $60,000 from the general fund, and save the Public Works Department $30,000 in overtime for current workers.

When asked if he could settle for just one new transfer station employee, Jaspers said, “One would certainly help.”

Follow Sue Tone on Twitter @ToneNotes. Reach her at stone@prescottaz.com or 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.