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County unsure about financing roads project: Overlay job could be in jeopardy of losing funds
May 22, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Scotts Bluff County Commissioners are still unsure how to pay for needed overlay work on a section of Sugar Factory Road going toward Lake Minatare.

County Roads Superintendent Bob Bennett told the board the county receives about $133,000 each year from the state for road projects, but it’s possible the state could stop the funding at any time. According to county estimates, those state monies could finance $1.9 million in bonds at an approximate three percent interest rate over the next 20 years.

The estimated cost of milling and overlaying the four miles of Sugar Factory Road from 27th Street to Lake Minatare Road is $1.75 million. The county would also like to repave a two-mile section of 21st Avenue as part of the same project for an estimated $750,000.

“I balk at that cost,” Bennett told commissioners. “We have no way of knowing how much longer we’ll be getting those state funds.”

He added the funding would tie up much of the county’s road budget at a time when there are numerous other roads in need of repair of some kind. He also mentioned that other counties have often ground up some of their paved roads and used it as a base to return the road to gravel.

Commissioner Ken Meyer said that in addition to traffic going to and from Lake Minatare, Sugar Factory Road is heavily trafficked by producers in the area to bring crops into town. “I’m not discounting our other needs, but that road is dangerous in places and needs work.”

Bennett said the county might lower the project’s cost by putting down a two-inch overlay rather than the three inches they initially planned. But an additional cost would be the recommendation that roads be chip sealed every five years.

“I don’t know if we can sustain what we already have,” said County Board Chairman Mark Masterton. “Maybe there are some roads we have to abandon or turn back to gravel. I’d like to repave all those roads, but I also don’t want us to go into debt with no guarantee the state funding will continue.”

Commissioner Steve Stratton said the need for road maintenance has grown over the years due to heavier trucks and larger farm equipment using the roads to haul heavier loads.

Masterton said the county can’t keep ignoring its need to maintain the roads. He recommended the county develop a formula to determine which roads are getting the most traffic and then prioritize them for repair while remaining within the county’s budget.
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