When Dale Phillips first started working for Barton County, the oil used to seal the county’s 380-plus miles of paved roads cost 15 cents per gallon. This year, it costs $2.50.
Now, Phillips is the director of the Road and Bridge Department, and Monday morning, he gave the County Commission an overview of his department’s chip sealing plans for 100 miles of roads west and north of Great Bend for this summer. Work will begin, one mile at a time, in July with plans to be completely done by Labor Day, weather permitting.
“This is one huge dance,” Phillips said. “One person out of place messes everything up.”
He was referring to the coordination it takes to make the project happen. It requires the efforts of Road and Bridge, the County Engineers Office and others.
Crews will start pouring asphalt, and spreading sand and rock chips July 15 and should be done in one month. This will be followed by the painting of center and road-edge lines.
Each mile will be closed to traffic while the work is being done.
This comes with a hefty pricetag, Phillips said. The asphalt will cost about $950,000, and the sand, chips and labor will cost another $250,000, bringing the per-mile price to between $12,000-15,000.
In addition to this, it will cost another $70-80 per mile for the painting.
Most roads are on a four- or five-year rotation for re-sealing, Phillips said. Some high-traffic roads are redone every three years.
This is crucial because “its maintains the integrity of the road bed,” Phillips said. The sealing keeps water from seeping through the surface and causing cracks that lead to potholes.
There was a time, Phillips said, when all the blacktops were reworked annually. That was when oil was cheap.
Today, there are more demands for what was once considered “bottom of the barrel” oil used for resealing, and his budget hasn’t kept pace. “The roads have suffered somewhat,” he said.
Nonetheless, his department does the best it can, he said. Costs have held pretty steady for the past two years.
In fact, this maintenance is a matter of pride for Phillips. Barton County is fifth in the state in terms of paved county secondary roads, but is an example for the whole state when it comes to the quality of those roads.
Commission Chairman Don Cates said he realizes this is a lot of money, but it costs less in the long run to keep up what the county has than to let it deteriorate and have to replace it later. “Maintaining county roads is one of our basic duties as far as county government is concerned.”
There are emerging technologies that might save time and money in the future, Phillips said, adding they will experiment with these.