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June 27, 2013

Precincts work together on roads

County Commissioners attempt to save money on materials and machines

Athens — There’s an old saying: You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines. It’s also a good time to repair roadways.

The Henderson County Commissioners Precincts are busy in the summer months rehabilitating bumpy county roads. With the cost of the materials and machines used to make the repairs climbing, the four commissioners are working together to accomplish as much as they can with the money on hand.

“With inflation, our road materials have gone up 137 percent in the last four years. Road and Bridge precincts are hit by those commodity prices where other departments aren’t,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Wade  McKinney said. “We’re trying everywhere we can to make our money go further, but inflation is stretching our capabilities to find better ways.”

McKinney said Precinct 2 has completed 15 miles of chip-and-seal so far this summer. He’s hopeful of squeezing out 10 more miles.

“I know I can get five, but I’m pushing for 10.”

Last week, crews from Ronny Lawrence’s Precinct 3 and Ken Geeslin’s Precinct 4 repaired eight miles on County Road 4325 from New York to Fincastle and two miles on CR 4224 in the Fincastle area.

Geeslin said the resurfacing projects are part of a partnership between the road and bridge crews. He explained that Lawrence’s road and bridge crew has an Etnyre Chip Spreader, which allows for more even and efficient use of rock during the road chip sealing process.

The two offices work together as a “unified team” to get road upgrade work performed more efficiently. Geeslin said it wouldn’t make sense for the county to buy a separate chipper for each precinct and have it sit idle while not in use.

McKinney said he and Precinct 1 Commissioner Scotty Thomas are sharing a used spreader purchased from Johnson County in their projects. McKinney explained that without the spreader, the work crews would have to use the old method. Formerly, the precincts would hook an attachment to the back of a dump truck.

“It’s a 2-man operation,” McKinney said. “You’d have one man driving backwards and another standing on the tailgate making sure the gravel came out evenly.

McKinney said the spreader has allowed the work crews to do the job faster, while using less rock in the process.

Lawrence said he will repair as many roads as his budget will allow, but the funds run out before all of the needed improvements can be made.  Keeping up with the cost or materials makes it difficult for the precincts to replace or upgrade old equipment.

McKinney said the three years of dry weather have been hard on the roads and there are many cracks to be repaired.

“We are scrambling,” McKinney said. “We’re all in the same boat.”

Hot mix, for example, which you see on the resurfaced roadways cost $27 per ton when McKinney took office. It now costs $78.

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