For over four decades, the Barton County Road and Bridge Department’s workhorse sand dredge had mined sand for road projects. Designed to last only 20 years, it pulled millions of tons of sand from pits around the county.
But, the reliable machine is on its final leg. What to do with it has been a point of discussion for the County Commission for over a year, ever since it was taken out of service.
Commissioners acted Tuesday morning when they approved the sale of the 1974 dredge for $81,050 to Venture Corporation of Great Bend. The Road and Bridge Department accepted bids for the sale and the dredge was sold as is.
“The county has used it faithfully for 40-plus years,” Road and Bridge Director Dale Phillips said. Ceasing operation only when the sand pit is iced over, it pumped an average of 40,000 tons of sand annually.
In addition, Venture is required to have it moved off the county site within 30 days and successfully paid for in full, Phillips said.
The dredge, used for mining sand out of a sand pit, was state-of-the-art when it was ordered on Nov. 5, 1973, Phillips said. The cost was $116,200.
It only had a life expectancy of 20 years. But, it kept going, and was completely rebuilt in the 1990s and repaired again in 2004.
The commissioners commended the Road and Bridge Department for its maintenance efforts, which have extended the use of the machine.
“Barton County takes good care of its equipment,” Phillips said. This allows for a higher resale value.
But, the dredge had gotten to the point where it was not functional and it was not cost effective to repair it again. To restore it could cost around $200,000, Phillips said. Then there would be not guarantee how long it would last, and the improvements would not increase its trade value.
There is also the possibility of one of the dredge’s pontoons springing a leak, causing it to sink. With 1,800 gallons of diesel fuel, that would create a large mess.
It was noted that Venture has the expertise in house to make the needed repairs.
However, a new unit would cost almost $600,000, Phillips said.
So, the commission has directed Phillips to look for a used, reconditioned dredge. “That’s still in the works. There is nothing to report at this time,” he said.
For now, the county is buying sand, which is more costly than mining its own, Phillips said. This has been going on for about a year since the dredge went down.
The county operates a sand dredging operation on South Washington Street. The county’s annual use of sand is approximately 45,000 to 50,000 tons per year and sand is crucial to the department’s operation.
It is mixed with salt to treat roads in winter, screenings are used for road sealing, egg rock is mixed with clay to fill road edge and shoulders. The county also produces asphalt, which requires sand.
Looking at the county budget, the Road and Bridge Department is the single largest fund at over $4.7 million for 2015.