Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 1, 2013

State dollars to aid counties' roadwork

Areas with flat budget thankful for additional funding.

By Ken de la Bastide and Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writers

— After several years of watching the available dollars for road maintenance dwindle, local counties are thankful for the relief being provided by the state.

The Indiana General Assembly in the approved 2014-15 fiscal year budget provided $136 million to counties for roadwork.

Howard County is slated to receive an additional $755,167 in each of the next two years.

“We will do more paving,” Ted Cain, superintendent of the Howard County Highway Department, said Monday. “Hopefully we can get a few more miles done.”

The cost to pave a mile of county road surpasses $60,000, he said.

“It helps,” Cain said of state funding for roads. “I’m surprised they haven’t provided additional money before now. A few years ago we did get some additional funding, and we used those funds to get the roads in good shape.”

Cain said decisions on how exactly to spend the money will depend largely on the county’s financial position at the end of the year. He said the impact of annexation by the city of Kokomo on county highway funds is unknown.

“It will be used on the roads, that’s where it belongs,” he said.

Some funds will be distributed after July 1 this year and the remainder over the next 18 months.

Tipton County is expected to receive $417,637 in each of the next two years.

Highway Superintendent Bret Morris said the money will be used to maintain roads.

“The biggest part will go into our chip and seal program,” he said. “We’ll get to things we haven’t gotten to in the past.”

Morris said Tipton County might pave short sections of county roads.

“I just hope they don’t take money away in another area,” he said.

The Miami County Highway Department will receive an additional $614,520 each year.

Highway Superintendent Sam Waltz said the more than 35 percent increase is a huge boost for the county, which has struggled to keep up with road maintenance.

He said if all the money was put toward sealing roads, the department could complete 90 miles each year. The county currently can afford just 30 miles of sealing a year.

Waltz said the money be used to purchase new trucks, some of which have more than 400,000 miles on them. 

He added he was also glad legislators removed language from the state budget that would have required counties to pass a wheel tax in order to receive the additional money.

Miami County doesn’t have a wheel tax. County residents have turned down a wheel tax three times.

“It’s good to know this money is coming to us with no strings attached,” Waltz said.

In Cass County, the highway department is set to get an additional $666,912 for two years. That’s an increase Highway Superintendent Jeff Smith said is much needed, and more than doubles the county’s funding for roadwork.

He said the cost of road supplies has steadily increased over the years, but the county’s budget has remained stagnant, allowing for fewer and fewer repairs to roads.

Ideally, the department would maintain 150 miles of road each year, Smith said, but has recently only been able to afford around 50 miles a year.

The extra funding would allow for 60 additional miles of chip and seal or 8 miles of asphalt paving, but Smith said the department would likely use the money for a combination of both.