Priorities settled for local road repairs

While some rural residents will be happy, others may need patience after priorities were established for Bartholomew County’s 2017 road improvement plan.

Contracts have been approved for 31 projects totaling 16.76 miles of county roads that make up Phase One of the annual Overlay Program.

However, 13 additional projects that constitute 12.55 miles will be tabled until Bartholomew County officials learn whether or not they will receive a matching state grant in August to fund Phase Two.

Due to the prioritizing, three townships have all of their 2017 overlay projects up in the air. That includes three in Wayne, two in Sandcreek and one in German Township, according to the Phase Two list submitted by Danny Hollander, Bartholomew County highway engineer.

Ohio Township, located southwest of Columbus, is scheduled to receive 4.06 miles in newly paved sections of roads during both phases, the most among Bartholomew County’s 12 townships.

Next in line are two areas of northeast Bartholomew County. Hawcreek Township will receive 3.79 miles, while Flatrock Township is set to have 3.59 miles of county roads repaved.

While some preliminary preparation work is underway, contractors are traditionally given the entire construction season to get the work done as their schedule allows, Hollander said.

In the contracts approved Monday, the Indianapolis-based Milestone Contractors, which has an office in Columbus, got the lion’s share of the work.

Milestone will receive $980,765 after being awarded 31 of the 34 first phase projects that include current improvements taking place on Lowell Road, west of Interstate 65. Hollander said it will take $689,764 to fund the second phase.

Unlike most contracts, the commissioners can approve more than one company to handle different overlay projects. The three remaining Phase One projects — all located in the Hickory Hills subdivision — were awarded to Dave O’Mara Contractors of North Vernon, which will receive $22,800 for its work in Flatrock Township.

In its original May 15 bids to do the entire project, Milestone’s total offer was 31 percent lower than O’Mara’s bid. Its bid shows only a slight increase in the cost of asphalt when compared to last year, Milestone senior estimator Kevin Conwell said.

Bartholomew County commissioner Larry Kleinhenz expressed confidence regarding the county’s chances of receiving Phase Two funding late this summer.

“We anticipate receiving the funds, but we can’t award them until we have the money,” Kleinhenz said.

While commissioners chairman Carl Lienhoop expressed regret that roadwork will likely carry over into November, the county highway engineer did not seem troubled.

“I don’t see Milestone getting all those (Phase One) roads done by August — or us even having (Phase Two roads) ready to go by then,” 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.