Nelson presents budget with equipment wish list

SIGNS POSTED on old SD-34 warn motorists of road break-up. Lake County Highway Superintendent Nels Nelson indicated at last week's budget meeting that he is considering a resurfacing project for next year. He called the project "hypothetical" because a number of factors will determine whether the county will actually be able to tackle the project.

Lake County Highway Superintendent Nels Nelson presented budget requests to the county commission last week for both weed control and the highway department. With both, the requests reflect not only rising costs but also a shift in the way resources are being used.

The budget request for weed control tripled.

"I know it's a lot, but there has to be a significant change to the way we're doing business," Nelson said.

A contractor is now being hired to spray for noxious weeds in the county rights-of-way and riprap. The county commission approved this expense for 2021 in April. Nelson added the cost to his budget request for 2021. He also doubled the cost for chemicals.

"You never know if grant money will be available," he said. Should grant funds be available, the full amount allocated would not be used.

"You can really tell they sprayed the weeds this year," Commissioner Adam Leighton observed regarding the impact of the change.

In introducing the budget for the highway department, Nelson asked for an additional seasonal summer employee. He said that individual could help with culvert inventory and other projects.

In walking through the rest of his budget, Nelson explained each increase. While some are due to increasing supply costs, others are related to his approach to road maintenance. For example, he would like to take more core samples to determine how to approach road improvement projects.

Among other increases were an additional $15,000 for repairs and maintenance; $8,500 for blades; $36,000 for gravel crushing; and $40,000 for road oil. Nelson explained that some expenditures are weather-related, such as fuel costs and the cost of blades.

Among proposed projects is remodeling the highway department office, removing the paneling to get out the mold and insulating the north wall. Commissioner Deb Reinicke specifically asked about insulating the wall, indicating the office manager should not need a space heater for personal comfort. The projected cost is $30,000.

Nelson described an electrical issue with street lights for which the county is responsible along SD-34 between Twin Lakes Animal Clinic and Farmer Avenue. He has been advised that rewiring is recommended. That project is estimated at $23,000.

When he introduced surfacing projects, Nelson was careful to identify them as "hypothetical projects" and to state the prices listed were from this year. The first involves resurfacing Old SD-34, also known as County Road 36 and 233rd Street, from the airport corner to 463rd Avenue and 463rd from 233rd to SD-34.

If two inches were milled off and asphalt were laid over the existing concrete base, the cost would be $1,054,134. If a hot-in-place recycled asphalt technique were used, the cost would be $921,625.

"We're looking at some projects out there, what kind of results they're having," he said about the less expensive approach. The second project involves using a slurry seal on the SD-34 bypass.

Other projects include five miles of rock shoreline restoration, which would cost around $328,544, and adding Base One surface stabilizer to the gravel on two more miles of road, which would cost around $69,000. Nelson noted that County Road 35, where the additive was used last year, is holding up well.

At Slaughter's request, Nelson also put together an equipment wish list.

"It's not going to be an easy thing to do, but we at least need to be aware of it," Slaughter told fellow commissioners.

The list, which had a total cost of nearly $1.2 million, included everything from VFH radios, tires and windshield replacements to a used belly dump trailer, a new plow truck, a side dump trailer and a new skid loader.

The Lake County Highway Department is responsible for maintaining 220 miles of paved road and 74 miles of gravel. In 2017, the Lake County Commission attempted to levy a road and bridge tax to help maintain the roads, but the effort was defeated 1,775-310 when taken to a public vote.