Harvey County Commissioners viewed a recommended 2014 budget from staff at their meeting Monday — a budget that included a proposed 4.5 mill increase.
John Waltner, county administrator, said the increase is targeted specifically at helping the county get caught up on road and bridge projects and likely will be an ongoing need.
"What you'll see is a budget that does have a mill levy increase, but that mill levy increase is targeted in the area that has the most dire need, that is, road and bridge," Waltner said. "It's not an across the board increase for the cost of doing government."
Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county, said the county's current road work plan is no longer adequate to keep up with the need for maintenance.
"Overlaying six miles of roadway in any given year isn't going to fix 165 miles total in the county in a manner that's going to be acceptable," he said. "John and I felt it was important that at some point in time, more has to be put into roads in this county."
Jim Meier, county road and bridge superintendent, previously reported to the commission rising costs have decreased the number of roads the county can repair each year. From 1993 to 2012, the county’s cost of overlaying one mile of road jumped from $41,000 to $115,000, more than doubling.
Meier said in order to maintain a pavement surfacing program on a seven year rotation, the county needs to address 23 miles of road each year. However, he reports the county has only achieved this goal in 10 of the past 20 years.
He proposed bringing the county’s number of miles treated back up to 23 in 2014 and found a method that could help to save funds. A method called "hot in-place recycling" mills, rejuvenates and re-applies existing materials, providing a new surface and a smoother ride. The estimated service life for this method is 10 years and is cheaper than a conventional two-inch overlay. Cost per mile is an estimated $88,000.
The commission may look at other alternatives to raising the mill levy, such as using bond funds for road projects or lowering the number of roads maintained in the county.
Waltner said he recognized performing more road maintenance would be costly, but he believed the work needed to be done.
"What are people willing to have within this county?" he said. "They expect public safety, they expect public health, they expect roads. It simply cannot be done on the cheap."
Swartzendruber reported otherwise, departments tried to keep budgets flat, with a slight decrease in the portion of the mill levy going to the general fund. Supplemental requests the commission will look at include an increase for electricity, water and sewer at the Detention Center, $14,000; funding for the Health Department to move to a new building, $20,000; an increase in allocation for mental health, $3,000; an increase in fuel for Sheriff's department patrol, $9,000; and an increase in allocation for the Economic Development Council, $4,253.
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Commissioners also heard a report from 360 Energy Engineers, a consulting group based in Lawrence. The group evaluated county facilities and recommended ways the county could save on energy costs.
The group assessed the courthouse, Detention Center, Law Enforcement Center and the Health Department, and estimated a more efficient system could result in about $67,000 in savings annually.
Recommended upgrades include lighting in all facilities; water conservation in all facilities; replacement of windows in the courthouse; and courthouse HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) renovations.
Commissioners will continue to discuss the study. Total cost of proposed improvements could be about $3 million.