PAOLA — The harsh winter and wet spring have combined to deal another heavy blow to the county’s road system.
At their meeting Wednesday, July 10, Miami County commissioners voted 5-0 to suspend the county’s dust control program for 2019. The program will resume in 2020.
Heavy snows, flooding and persistent rainstorms have kept the Road and Bridge Department busy repairing the county’s 700 miles of gravel roads since November — making it futile to prepare roads for application of dust control material this season, county officials said.
“Every time we start to prepare the roads for the (dust control) program, we would get a 4- or 5-inch rain, and we were starting back at square one, and here it is mid-July,” said Jeff McGuire, assistant director of Road and Bridge. “It’s our department’s feeling that we would not have time to prepare the roads for dust control this year, and we would be short-changing the citizens purchasing the product at this time — not getting the longevity out of that product for the year.
“It’s not our wish to do away with the program altogether, just this one year,” McGuire said.
To attempt the dust control program this season, assuming Mother Nature cooperated, it would require ceasing some of the work Road and Bridge crews are doing now to repair gravel roads, McGuire said.
“We would have to pull equipment operators and truck drivers away from repairing gravel roads to do the dust control program, and at this time it just doesn’t make any sense to not keep repairing roads,” McGuire said.
Commissioner Danny Gallagher asked McGuire how many calls the department normally receives about road conditions.
“Twenty or 25 (per month),” McGuire said. “In June, we had 150 call-in requests (for road repairs), and that’s just phone calls.”
McGuire said the department also receives emails and text messages on a daily basis about road conditions.
“We’ve had 100 calls in the month of July, and it’s only the 10th,” McGuire said. “I bet by the time I leave this meeting I’ll have two more.”
McGuire talked about how heavy rains have continued to slow down the repair work.
“We have a lot of rock ledges and different materials that roads are on in Miami County,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of having 4-foot, flat-bottom ditches with three-to-one slopes and a 40-foot right-of-way. You’re lucky to get a 6-inch, v-bottom ditch at the end of an 18-foot-wide road, and hope it doesn’t wash out the entire road the next time we get a 5-inch rain. That’s what we’re up against.
“Every time we get the 5-inch rain we’re back to square one, where all of the culverts plug and the water goes out around driveways and culverts and washes the roads out.”
Commissioner Tyler Vaughan asked McGuire when the dust control program normally begins.
“At the beginning of May we start preparing the roads for dust control,” McGuire said. “May 15 is generally our deadline for applications for dust control, and we start shooting the product around the 25th of May.”
“So you’re two months behind?” Vaughan asked.
“And we haven’t even begun,” McGuire responded.
Vaughan asked how much money was allocated for dust control.
McGuire said the budget was $300,000 for the program.
“So $300,000 for maybe a month’s worth of dust control,” Vaughan said.
McGuire nodded. “I don’t think the citizens or the county would be getting their bang for their buck.”