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BoCC targets road funds for 2012

Magnesium chloride application will continue in 2012, according to a Tuesday decision by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners.

A Tuesday special meeting was held for the purpose of allocating 2012’s projected funding for road maintenance and improvements.

At the meeting, the commissioners opted to continue the current level of magnesium chloride application and emphasize gravel road work next year with the remaining funding.

The decisions were needed for consulting firm Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH) to create the 2012 portion of the five-year road plan.

In presenting the issues, County Administrator Greg Schulte said approximately $875,000 will be available for road maintenance and improvement projects in 2012 and that any funding for magnesium chloride would need to be taken “off the top” before recommendations of how to spend the other funding could be made.

In 2011, the county spent about $300,000 on magnesium chloride that was applied during two different projects.

In the spring, the substance was applied to about 160 miles of roads at a cost of about $200,000, while a second application this fall applied the magnesium chloride to about 80 miles of roads at a cost of about $100,000.

Schulte noted that the county received an “exceptional” price on the magnesium chloride this year (at 57 cents per gallon, compared to the typical price of about 65 cents per gallon, according to Public Works Director Ken Feyen), and said that the price will likely go up for 2012.

Continuing discussion on the matter, Schulte said Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) fugitive dust regulations concern roads with an Average Daily Traffic (ADT) count of 200 or above.

Schulte said Archuleta County has about 95 miles of roads that fall into that category, including County Roads 500, 700, 975, Cloman Boulevard and Eight Mile Mesa, among others.

Based on the 2011 cost, Schulte estimated that it would cost about $135,000 to apply magnesium chloride to those roads required by the CDPHE and that more typical pricing would place the cost closer to $150,000.

Schulte said the staff recommendation was to provide the minimum amount.

In response to a question from Commissioner Michael Whiting, Feyen said the estimate provided for one application yearly, based on his understanding of the CDPHE regulation.

Feyen added that the substance also builds up over the years, with the residual buildup requiring less of the substance to be applied in the future and said that a single application would carry those roads with buildup through the summer.

Resident Teri Frazier asked what criteria drove the current application choices, to which Feyen responded that, currently, higher-volume roads receive the substance, with the second application hitting roads that tend to wear down quicker.

Frazier suggested that, instead of two applications, the county should look at one application midsummer.

Frazier also asked how a successful mill levy ballot issue would affect the funding available for roads.

Schulte said the measure would add $2.26 million if successful.

With no other public comment on the matter, the commissioners made statements, followed by a motion.

“We’re trying to give the public an idea of how the money will be spent based on what we know today,” Commissioner Steve Wadley said, adding they were trying to do the best with the funding they expected.

Whiting, who admitted he lived on a dirt road, said he would like the county to provide above the minimum standard because of health and safety concerns and the fact that many of his constituents have expressed “intense interest” in gravel roads.

“I’m not unclear as to what our dilemma is,” Whiting added.

Lucero agreed that the county needed to continue with magnesium chloride applications both spring and fall to avoid dust concerns, adding that the commissioners represent the entire county, including those living on gravel roads.

With that, Wadley made a motion to allocate $300,000 for magnesium chloride application on 240 miles.

Before the motion was voted on, Schulte pointed out that the mileage was approximate and that the amount would likely be more than $300,000.

Feyen estimated a more accurate amount to be $350,000.

Armed with the new information, the motion was retracted and a new motion made — for approximately $325,000 to be allocated for magnesium chloride application on 240 miles of roads, 160 miles in the first application and 80 in the second.

With $325,000 allocated toward magnesium chloride in 2012, the BoCC was left with directing the remaining $550,000 to other road project categories.

Schulte said guidance was necessary for the emphasis that would be put toward gravel and pavement projects.

The road plan being formed by SEH separates road projects into four categories — pavement reconstruction, pavement crack sealing, pavement chip sealing and gravel road reconstruction.

Schulte continued with a reminder to the commissioners that the county is in the process of seeking federal Public Lands Highway funding to rebuild Piedra Road, with that effort amping up in the spring of 2012.

Schulte said he believes the county can make a compelling argument for the funding because Colorado is one of nine states that is granted a higher priority due to the prominence of public lands in the state.

Additionally, Schulte said, the county has begun making the county’s case with staff at the Colorado Department of Transportation who are charged with prioritizing projects within the state.

If the push for funding were unsuccessful, though, Schulte said staff would recommend working on the northern portion of Piedra Road in 2013, which would require “serious funding.”

Schulte said the county expects to have about $1 million in available funding for roads in 2013. In 2012, the county will make a $100,000 payment to the Town of Pagosa Springs — money owed to the town from the 1A funding that was not paid through the life of the de-Brucing measure.

Whiting asked how much funding from 2012 would be required in 2013 if the county did not receive the federal funding for Piedra Road.

Schulte and Feyen said about 1-1.5 miles of the road would need to be worked on, at a cost of about $1-1.5 million.

Whiting continued the questioning by asking about a potential local match required to receive the federal funding.

Schulte said no match is required, but a pledged match would likely help the application and added that the county is currently updating the Design Concept Report for the project with updated costs — something Feyen said shows sincerity and credibility, and would count as a match toward funding.

Feyen said a total cost to rebuild the full six miles of Piedra Road would land between $5 million and $5.5 million.

Schulte added that he didn’t believe funding would need to be reserved in the 2012 budget for the project.

Public comment was then taken on the topic, with several residents speaking in favor of work on particular roads and asking questions about whether grading work would continue at the current level (the answer received was affirmative).

The pending five-year road plan was also discussed, with the question asked if, should the county’s mill levy request be approved by voters, the plan would have to be redone.

Schulte said the new funding amount would have to be injected and the plan would have to return to the commissioners to see if the emphasis changed, but said the condition and ranking of roads within each category would not change.

Wadley asked to be reminded of what the total amount required to bring all county roads up to good condition would be. Schulte stated that it would cost approximately $42 million to bring all county roads up to a “fair” or better condition within five years.

“A reality check, that’s good,” Lucero commented.

Frazier asked when the plan would be completed and published.

Schulte said it would likely take less than a month to finish the plan and that it could be done as soon as a couple of weeks. The plan then has to be adopted by the BoCC.

Schulte continued, saying that, while it would have been nice to have the plan in time for the election, it was a tool for the future that would continue to be useful.

Resident Margaret Pickett asked if the county’s Road and Bridge Department could be downsized with the decreased funding for road work.

Schulte said the current staff level (16, when fully staffed) is required for regular maintenance on the county’s 327 miles of roads.

With public comment closed, Whiting said the commissioners had informally discussed the distribution of funding, with his inclination being that the county should focus more on gravel roads and less on pavement.

Wadley stated his belief that a long-term solution was metro districts.

“If it were up to me, I’d say let’s do all gravel,” Lucero said, adding that he knew the county had to take care of its investment in pavement.

Following discussion, the commissioners unanimously passed a motion distributing 80 percent of the $550,000 ($440,000) to work on gravel roads and 20 percent ($110,000) to pavement preservation — both amounts to be spent consistent with the five-year road plan.

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