County slashes repaving projects

There won’t be many Bartholomew County residents getting a shiny new blacktop in front of their homes this year.

Only 10 projects totaling slightly more than 5½ miles are on this year’s county overlay program, said Bartholomew County Highway Superintendent Dwight Smith.

That is 78 percent fewer roads getting a new asphalt surface when compared to 2014.

An additional 60 miles of county road repairs will be done this year through the less expensive chip-and-seal method, which blends asphalt with gravel, Smith said.

There are at least three reasons why fewer county roads have been placed on the 2015 overlay program, said county highway engineer Danny Hollander.

The county is spending $750,000 in economic development income tax funds previously earmarked for roads on a new county annex building.

Last year’s overlay was supplemented by an additional $210 million provided to all 92 counties by the Indiana General Assembly.

A large amount of county road funds was invested into extensive renovations recently completed along roads 325W and 350W, resulting in less money for annual road maintenance.

The act of cutting back on annual road maintenance to pay for a major road project isn’t anything new.

In 2013, only 11.5 miles of roadway were placed on the overlay program in order to complete the final phase of the County Road 600N project in front of Armuth Acres.

Widely fluctuating temperatures in December and January actually caused several freezes and thaws that resulted in more road damage than the much colder previous winter, Hollander said.

That made it more difficult for Smith to determine which projects should be included during his tour of over 700 miles of county roads early this spring, Hollander said.

Smith decided to choose no more than one or two spots in each township where road damage was most extensive, Hollander said.

After bids are received at the end of this month, the overlay work will likely begin in mid-July, Smith said.

Limited repairs also are being done in two southern Bartholomew County subdivisions — Sandhill Farms, located east of Azalia, and Villa Park, north of Jonesville.

On Tuesday, the highway department will ask the county council to reappropriate existing funds that were not spent last year. The amounts include $417,222 for highways, $204,310 for local roads and streets and $45,000 for bridge work.

In the past, elected county officials frequently have talked about how much their constituents don’t like the chip-and-seal treatments.

A few residents have complained about loose gravel cracking windshields, loss-of-control crashes and foreign material clogging drainage areas, Hollander said. But most are concerned about blotches ending up on the body of their vehicles, damaging the paint, he said.

However, chip-and-seal treatments do provide temporary repairs at about a quarter of the $60,000-per-mile cost of a new blacktop, Hollander said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.