“It's either that, or I start parking stuff 'til the end of the year,” Schuman said.

With only $3,000 remaining in the equipment repair line item for the 2016-2017 year, Road and Bridge Administrator Lee Schuman, P.E., said his department would need another $80,000 to finish out the year.

“It’s either that, or I start parking stuff ‘til the end of the year,” Schuman said.

According to the 2017 budget, the Road and Bridge Department requested and received a total of $230,000 for construction equipment repair and has had to make several repairs to motor graders and other large pieces of heavy machinery.

Additionally, a backhoe estimated at $105,000 was swept away into a creek during a summer flood and was included in a total damage assessment of more than $400,000 from the last round of heavy rains and flooding, mostly in rural portions of Camden County. 

“We’ll have to see what line items there are, because I don’t know where there is that kind of money,” First District Commission Bev Thomas responded to Second District Commissioner Don Williams’ query about where they would get the funds.

The issue was raised last Thursday during a Camden County Commission meeting regarding a new asphalt apron construction project for a connecting gravel road to State Highway A near Montreal. The project, not budgeted in 2017, required commission approval because it involves turning a portion of a county gravel road into asphalt.

Schuman said he had requested funding in a 2017 preliminary budget proposal for approximately a dozen small new asphalt construction projects similar to this one, but the commission denied the funding request. According to the 2017 budget, Schuman had requested $55,000 in material “new” asphalt, but was budgeted zero dollars.

“We had suggested 11 of these in last year’s preliminary budget, but they were cut. We have hundreds of those intersections, and we figured just doing 10 or 11 each year we’d eventually get through all of them,” Schuman said. “It would have to be about six-inches thick, because large trucks are making a turn right there, so in order to avoid the pavement getting twisted and rutted the asphalt has to be really thick or it has to be concrete.”

In 2017, the Road and Bridge Department received a total of $6,724,154 worth of funding, down $163,996.69 from the 2016 budget and $642,530.76 less than Schuman’s 2017 budget proposal had requested.

The intersections referred to are where a gravel road meets a paved road, requiring drivers to turn onto pavement from gravel. The one new asphalt project now being slipped into upcoming construction was approved for the intersection of County Road A-77 and State Highway A in Montreal. County Road A-77 is a connecting road from Black Locust Road to Black Oak Road that connects to State Highway A.

Schuman said a line item transfer from asphalt maintenance to new asphalt would likely be the proposal. In 2017, Road and Bridge was budgeted $702,314 for material - asphalt “maintenance” after Schuman requested $1,225,000.

“This is something we told the people out there on Black Oak Road we would do about two years ago. We’ve never gotten to it. I’d say it’s a road that comes to the middle of a turn and when people are attempting to get on the road — from that gravel portion — the gravel ends getting slung out on the main portion,” Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty said. “They wanted a portion of that paved so that basically they could have an opportunity to get on that road.”

Williams, whose district the road resides in, said he was familiar with the location, and had actually just received a call from another constituent in a different area of the county dealing with a similar issue. 

“It’s dangerous, very dangerous,” Williams said, adding that the intersection usually suffers in summer as more rock is spilled out onto the roadway as opposed to the winter when plow trucks can sweep it away. “People tend to go 60, 65, 70 on A-Road. Nobody goes 55.”

Schuman said preliminary estimates would ballpark the work at approximately $5,000 for 30-35 feet of asphalt on the apron of the intersection.

With so many projects of this kind, the engineer said he determined which of these intersections to work on first based on the traffic flow of the state road that the gravel road intersects. The project that is being funded is 11th on the list.

According to the 2017 project proposal provided by Schuman, Black Oak Road has a traffic flow count of 2,021 at the intersecting roadway. Black Oak Road was added to the list, because of sight distance issues involving turns near the intersection, according to Schuman.

The first priority on Schuman’s list was the intersection of Tree Lane and U.S. 54 with a traffic flow count of 9,664 with others including Highway 7 and State Route F as well as two other locations connecting to US-54. These projects were all ahead of Black Oak Road on the priority list but are all still unfunded.

The commission had planned to approve a budget amendment of $5,000 to cover the expense for Black Oak Road, but Auditor Jimmy Laughlin stated the commission first had to approve the construction from gravel to pavement and also send his office financial documentation on the project. A motion agreeing to the project was approved, but the commission will have to vote on the budget amendment at a later date.

Commissioners also voted to approve the county tax levy for 2018, the same as prior years due to the 1979 rollback amendment. The levy was set at 11 cents per $100 of assessed value for county revenue and 11 cents per $100 of assessed value for the Road and Bridge Department.