With the arrival of summer weather, road districts around Monett have evaluated their budgets and targeted summer maintenance projects.
Monett Special Road District commissioners met on Monday to look at needed work in the district. Superintendent Clayton Bunch and Commissioner Bill Medlin said crews in Lawrence County would overlay two miles of Farm Road 1070 between Farm Road 2220 and 2240 and a quarter mile on Farm Road 1050, west of the railroad tracks.
In Barry County, crews will put one mile of overlay on Farm Road 1070 between Farm Road 2030 and 2040 as well as on three-quarters of a mile on Farm Road 2030 between Farm Roads 1090 and 1100. Chip and seal will be placed on Farm Road 1060 between Farm Roads 2030 and 2040.
Commissioners voted to start work on the bridge by the Waldensian Presbyterian Church.
Pierce Special Road District commissioners, also meeting on Monday, said they had budgeted $50,000 to $60,000 to spend this year. The amount used to be enough to put chip and seal over six miles of roads. This year they expect to resurface four miles, thanks to the contract signed by Lawrence County early with Blevins Asphalt that locked in a cheaper price on oil.
Major work for the year will include putting a layer of chip and seal on Farm Road 2220, east to Farm Road 1050, approximately one-and-a-half miles. Chip and seal will also be laid on Farm Road 2220 west from Highway 37 to Farm Road 1010, approximately two-and-a-half miles.
Pierce Road District staff said they plan to spend a lot of time patching roads and laying base rock to bolster other roads that will not see major overlays this year.
In the Purdy Special Road District, foreman Marvin Carney said the wet winter had contributed to serious maintenance problems.
"We've got a lot of holes," Carney said. "We're steadily gaining. We're patching every day that it hasn't rained. It's not hard to spend $10,000 a day at $1,000 a load on mix. We've got to spread it out over 60 miles of roads."
The road district's past strategy, Carney said, has been to resurface as many roads as possible.
"When I started here 20 years ago, and oil cost 60 to 80 cents a gallon and chips were $6 to $8 a ton, we could afford to do 12 miles of chip and seal a year. Now we're lucky if we can do two miles," Carney said.
In that time, the Purdy Road District has reduced the number of dirt roads from 37 miles to 3.3 miles. Carney explained the strategy has been to put down the first layer of chip and seal, leaving an asphalt-like surface of chips and solidified oil three-quarters of an inch thick on the road. For the next several years, crews have to return and add another layer until the roads get to a depth of around two-and-a-half inches.
"A lot of the roads coming apart have only been chip and sealed for the second time and only have an inch or an inch-and-a-half on them," Carney continued. "These old country roads also are not made for these heavy trucks. Water gets under the asphalt, it gets soft and the traffic breaks them up. We can't afford to keep them up. I'm fighting to keep as many roads as I can from going back to dirt."
One new strategy Carney is trying is using a mix from Randy Ballay's quarry that mixes a lot of lime with a fine base. The combination creates a soupier fill that can be bladed into cracks and hardens into an exceptionally hard finish. Ballay has also discounted the product and has attracted several road districts into buying it.
"It saves money for asphalt to patch with and put chip and seal over the top," Carney said.
This week Carney has been putting chip and seal on Farm Roads 1095, 2090 and 1085. He has a portion of Farm Road 1070 targeted for work. Farm Roads 1070 and 1090, which run north and south on both sides of Purdy, both of which run to Monett, are among the heaviest traveled and the worst roads in the district. Carney would like to concentrate more on them if funds allow.
The biggest source of the road district's revenue comes from the county-wide sales tax. Property tax only generates about a fourth of the Purdy district's income, Carney said. He credited a lot of volunteer help driving vehicles, including road district commissioners David Henry and Jerry Rickman, plus retired mail carrier Johnny Cherry and an employee with Ed Mareth's Genesis Project, for helping the district get as much work done as it is.
"Until the economy turns around, it's going to get pretty tough to drive down a country road," Carney said.
One of the better positioned districts near Monett has been the Freistatt Special Road District. Commissioner Herman Lehde, who has served for 35 years, said last year the district picked up some unfinished work from the previous year and spent $200,000 on its roads, $60,000 more than the annual budget.
Freistatt's main strategy has involved blading on hot mix as needed, spreading the maintenance miles. Crews use their lay-down machine to cover a surface, let it settle for a year, then cover it with chip and seal and maintain by blading mix over residual cracks.
Commissioners are looking at doing a mile of chip and seal work this year. A bid has also been taken on replacing a 6-by-6 foot culvert a mile north of Freistatt and a mile west of Highway H on Farm Road 2170.
"The attachment on one end of the bridge has broken," Lehde said. "We have it marked. The bridge is not in danger of falling in. Do we want to spend money on the bridge or chip and seal another mile of roads? Which is more important? That's what we have to decide."
Crews have done hand patching around the district this spring. Lehde said repairs from the winter were expensive but not as bad as conditions looked in February. Remaining chip and seal work will depend on how funds hold up and how much prices change, especially for oil, as the summer progresses.