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Low estimates, high fuel costs challenge director
by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

With certain discrepancies found in the Platte County Roads Master Plan earlier in the year combined with economic distress due to rising oil prices, new Public Works Director Greg Sager has taken over a financial challenge for the county.

“We have some inherent financial challenges with trying to get the best value we can for the citizens,” said Sager. “Our challenge is to maintain 68 bridges and approximately 225 miles of roadway. We are continually challenged by oil prices that fluctuate daily. It’s hard to budget for asphalt products, fuel and aggregate when fuel and oil are a moving target.”

Sager stated that those fluctuating oil prices have a “direct effect against our roads master plan. In the unincorporated portion of the county, we have over 40 miles of road that were going to be improved to either asphalt or chip and seal. Oil prices have sky rocketed since the original estimates were made and that makes a big impact on our ability to do this as easily as we would have liked.”

According to Sager, the projects identified on the Roads Master Plan in 2002 will cost more to construct now than they were originally estimated due to the increase in oil prices.

However, while oil has impacted everyone from consumers at the gas pump to the construction crews laying the asphalt, Sager said it’s not the only reason that the projects listed in the roads master plan are more expensive than initially projected.

“It’s my understanding that the estimates didn’t include all of the costs needed to make all of the improvements as indicated by the initial plan,” said Sager.

As reported previously in The Landmark, Planning and Zoning Director Aaron Schmidt stated that, “The original cost estimates shown in the Roads Master Plan are not detail oriented and do not take a comprehensive look at each project specifically. The estimates are essentially planning level costs.”

Schmidt said transportation projects typically begin with “planning level” costs that increase in accuracy as they progress from conceptual stages to engineering and construction. These figures are typically the first and roughest numbers in the life of a project and, in this case, only factored a portion of the needed improvements.

Former Public Works Director Dale Thomas agreed with Schmidt.

“Improvement costs in the Roads Master Plan were developed on a ‘cost per linear foot’ basis,” said Thomas. “This method did not account for additional expenses involving general safety improvements such as road widening, drainage improvements or other unexpected costs that can arise.”

According to Schmidt, the roads master plan, which was adopted three years ago, was formulated by several entities.

“The roads master plan was done by a county-hired consultant firm called HNTB, county staff-comprised of myself and Dale (Thomas), county commissioners who were primarily led by former 2nd District Commissioner Steve Wegner, and a committee appointed by the former commission comprised of county residents,” said Schmidt.

The Roads Master Plan, which is divided into equally between the incorporated and unincorporated sections of the plan, outlines projects to which the 3/8 cent road sales tax money will be dedicated to.

According to Sager, over a ten year time frame, the 3/8 cent sales tax was originally projected to bring in $65.6 million, with the unincorporated portion of the county receiving $32.8 million.

That $32.8 million would then be divided between priority one, two and three bridges and the county road district funds. Sager said of the $32.8 allocated by the plan, road district 1 (responsible for all the gravel roads in the unincorporated portion of the county not serviced by a special road district and a small fraction of chip and seal roads) should receive $5.5 million, with the City of Weston receiving $2.6 million, $925,000 dedicated to the Farley Road District and the remaining $23.6 million named for 23 specific projects such as: Union Chapel Road, Jones Myer and Fox Road.

“It’s my understanding that actuals are going to be closer to $50 million instead of $65 million,” said Sager, confirming a fact first reported in The Landmark back in February.

“(With these figures) it would be more difficult to construct the improvements as identified on the road plan.”

While the county may incur some obstacles along the way of fulfilling the roads master plan, Sager said the county is dedicated to seeing the projects through.

“These commissioners are trying to do everything they can to fulfill the promises made in the roads master plan,” said Sager. “I’m impressed to see all that they’re doing to make those promises happen and I’m very impressed with how forthcoming they’ve been with the residents.”



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