Public works seeks more funding
WORTHINGTON — Stressing that his deparment’s budget has remained stagnant for the past 30 years, Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder on Tuesday outlined the need for dramatic funding increases for the 2014 budget year and beyond during a regular meeting of the Nobles County Board of Commissioners.
Schnieder was allotted 45 minutes for a briefing to commissioners on budget needs, and utilized the time to discuss various improvements he’d like his department to be able to undertake in multiple areas.
“We will do the best we can with what we have, but we are reaching a critical point,” Schnieder said, noting that Nobles County is at the bottom levels of funding and maintenance personnel compared to similar-sized counties, while increased costs have eroded the ability to maintain and improve the highway system. “Right now, we’re repaving roads where we should have just rebuilt them.”
In his presentation, Schnieder split the public works needs as he sees them into six categories — the first being building and facilities maintenance and improvement.
“There is a shortage of space at the Adrian and Worthington shops,” Schnieder reported. “By adding onto the Adrian shop, the space needs there could be met along with providing some additional storage for items currently stored at the Worthington shop.”
Construction of a roof over the storage area at the salt storage bunker south of Worthington is another need, added Schnieder, and the roofs on the Worthington shop should be replaced. Other repairs to that shop are also necessary.
“A $500,000 initial investment could speed up the expansion of the Adrian shop facility and enclosure of the salt/sand bunker,” Schnieder said. “About $25,000 per year should be set aside for building repairs and replacements of roofs, doors, tuck pointing, pavement replacement and mechanical systems replacement.”
Schnieder also stated that about $150,000 more per year, on average, could be spent on equipment replacement.
“Equipment costs have doubled over the past 30 years. A truck that used to cost less than $100,000 now costs about $200,000,” Schnieder said.
“There are currently several major items that are past due on the replacement list. There are also attachments to the equipment that we could use to make operations more efficient that do not get purchased due to funding limitations.”
An additional $130,000 per year could be used for road maintenance operations, Schnieder suggested. Money in this area would go toward additional staff, the purchased of more paving-related materials and a widening of some township road intersections, among other specifics.
“Adding one maintenance worker would cost around $55,000 and still place Nobles County at the bottom of the (Minnesota Department of Transportation District 7) list for miles per worker at 38,” Schnieder said. “There are many maintenance operations that would benefit from increased funding.”
For overlay surfacing, Schnieder estimates that $300,000 is needed to maintain the existing paved surfacing.
“The pavement on the 383 miles of paved roadway lasts, on average, about 20 to 25 years,” he explained. “The average cost of an overlay is $200,000 per mile.
“On a 25-year average, 15 1/3 miles should be overlaid each year. On average, we should be spending just over $3 million per year for bituminous overlays. We currently receive $2.7 million for all types of construction each year.”
Nobles County, which has 135 bridges in its highway system, would need $400,000 each year for bridge replacements if an average of two bridges is replaced each year, Schnieder said. With regard to roadway reconstruction, a considerably larger sum is necessary.
“Nobles County has 455 miles of roadway in the County Road and County State Aid Highway systems,” Schnieder detailed. “Even using an average life of 100 years (for a roadway, instead of an anticipated 75), it would require 3.8 miles per year to be reconstructed at an average cost of $2.85 million a year. Currently, all the funding available goes toward roadway resurface overlays. … All the reconstruction costs would be new funding.”
With the $2.85 million request for roadway construction added on to the other funding proposals, “all the funding shortfall estimates … come to around $3,855,000 of additional funding based on current year costs,” Schnieder said.
Also outlined by Schnieder during his presentation was the potential additional funding — up to $500,000 a year for 20 years — for the paving of gravel roads that have been identified for bituminous surfacing in the past. Specific potential projects totaling $11.3 million in county road work, $5.16 million in bridge replacement and $16.2 million in county state aid highway reconstruction were also listed.
“Steve, you’ve given us a lot to chew on here,” Board Chair Robert Demuth Jr. said. “I don’t think the commissioners need any convincing that you’re underfunded. I don’t know exactly where we’re going to get started, but I think the consensus is you’ll see additional funding.”
Other county departments are expected to make similar presentations before the board at upcoming meetings.
In other matters, the commissioners approved:
- A joint power agreement for the Southwest Minnesota Regional Emergency Communications Board. The modification complies with a state statutory requirement to add coordination of 911 services to the purpose of the board.
- An amendment to the Southwest Minnesota Adult Mental Health Consortium joint powers agreement.
- A grant agreement between Nobles County Community Services and the Minnesota Department of Human Services in the amount of $2,784. The grant will allow for the utilization of a software database to do more complete relative searches for children in foster care.
- A grant agreement between Nobles County Community Services and the Minnesota Department of Health for the period of Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2018, for childhood immunizations.
- A resolution for the sale of $2,970,000 in general obligation water revenue refunding bonds. The action represents a re-funding of the $3,580,000 general obligation water revenue note of 2006 following an agreement with Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water.