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County dredges up savings
Purchase of new machine cheaper than buying sand
new deh county commission sand dredge pic
Shown is the Barton County Road and Bridge Departments old sand dredge after it was beached when it stopped working after four decades of service. It has been sold to Venture Corporation and the county is looking for a replacement. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Barton County Office Buildings will be closed on Thursday and Friday in observance of Thanksgiving.  The Barton County Health Department and the Records Division of the Sheriff’s Office will also be closed both days.  The Barton County Landfill will be closed on Thursday. It will reopen on Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. On Saturday, it will return to normal operational hours. Emergency services will be in normal operation.

There were a lot of factors to weigh when it came to the tons of sand Barton County uses for road maintenance, the decision to purchase a new dredge or the continued buying of sand from a private vendor.
However, after nearly an hour of discussion, the Barton County Commission Monday morning voted to purchase a new dredge at a cost of $599,500. It was more cost effective, commissioners said, than the other options.
For an implement that mines sand out of a sand pit, the purchase sparked an intense debate. In the end, it was passed by a vote of 4-1.
“I think its a very good move for Barton County,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said. Although it will require long-term planning, the county has the money from the Oil and Gas Depletion Fund to cover the cost now.
“This decision is for the citizens of Barton County,” Commissioner Don Davis said. “This is for the good of the county.”
But, Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg, the sole nay vote, said the state is “tone deaf” to the fiscal crisis it faces. The future of state funding may be in jeopardy.
“That’s a lot of money,” he said of the dredge cost. “That’s too much for me to swallow.”
None the less, Commissioner Ken Lebbin said that means this is the time to jump. “Now its more important for the counties to keep their houses in order and stand on their own two feet.”
In July, the commission approved the sale of the dredge used by the Road and Bridge Department since 1974, citing the high cost of maintaining the time-worn machine. Venture Corporation of Great Bend bought it for $80,000 which will go towards the purchase of the new one.
As part of the sale process, the department reviewed several options, said Road and Bridge Director Dale Phillips. Among these were taking bids for a new or used replacement, or the continued contracting to buy the sand from an outside source.
“The new dredge is the economical long-term solution,” Phillips said. All of the used machines they found would have to be modified for local use, plus would come with the potential problems the county faced with the old one.
As for buying sand, the county has purchased stockpiles to last through the end of 2015. It keeps a year’s worth of sand at the ready.
For this supply, the county paid Knop Sand of Ellinwood $3.70 per ton. This was the lowest of five bids, and a price Phillips said could increase in coming years .
Phillips said it costs the county about $2.51 to mine its own sand, or a savings of about $75,000 per year. That includes labor, fuel and equipment costs.
Plus, when it dredges and screens its own, the county gets egg rock and fine sand that serve other needs for the Road and Bridge Department. These by-products are valued at about $30,000 annually.
The county’s annual use of sand is approximately 45,000 to 50,000 tons and sand is crucial. “It is the lifeblood of our operations,” Phillips said.
If dependent on the private sector for sand, he said the county would sort of be held hostage.
Sand is mixed with salt to treat roads in winter, it is used for road sealing, egg rock is mixed with clay to fill road edge and shoulders. The county also produces asphalt, which requires sand.
The old dredge was state-of-the-art when it was ordered on Nov. 5, 1973. 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.
 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. Then there would be not guarantee how long it would last.
 It was put out of service in April 2013 and the county has bought sand ever since.
It is hoped the new machine will have a similar life span, Phillips said. The county’s savings from pumping sand could pay off the purchase in a matter of years.