Mild, rainy winter tough for Roads Department, construction

Mild winter temperatures and heavy rain have been a challenge for the Henry County Roads Department and construction crews building the new Henry County Jail.

Gravel roads are especially difficult to maintain in this weather, Henry County engineer Jake Hotchkiss explained in a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8. While there is some frost in the ground, the top four inches are thawed, leaving nowhere for water to go and causing damage to gravel roads, Hotchkiss said.

“Overall, I feel like the gravel roads are looking good,” Hotchkiss said. “I hope for freezing weather. That helps us condition through that.”

To combat the weather, the department will continue to use spot rock where possible and blade when the weather permits.

Last week, the Roads Department worked on slippery spots on gravel roads, sent a brush crew out to 105th Street west of Oasis Avenue and sent out the boom mower. They also worked on signs and at the quarry clearing trees and brush.

Supervisors approved awarding the contract for the construction of the Franklin Avenue Bridge over the BNSF Railroad to United Contractors Inc. from Johnston.

This is the first contract that will be approved with an electronic signature for a Henry County Roads Department contract. Using electronic signatures is the new standard and should streamline the process and make it faster, Hotchkiss said. A lot of times, the department is waiting a few weeks to get signed contracts back from contractors. With electronic signatures, the process should be done in a week.

Construction at the jail project site has been muddy, said Mike Adkins, with Midwest Construction Consultants.

Gravel was purchased to create makeshift walkways at the construction site and avoid tracking mud into the building. Adkins said he also hopes this helps them from “sinking” into the mud up to their knees.

Construction on the jail is a couple of weeks behind, but they should be able to get caught up, Adkins said. Work on the roof has begun and the pour is scheduled for the floors in the administration area of the building. They have also started insulating the walls.

In other news, planning and zoning administrator Joe Buffington presented the departments fiscal year 2020 budget to supervisors. There are few changes from the FY19 budget, with Buffington asking supervisors to keep in mind a large format printer will need to be replaced within the next five years.

“It may last us five more years. It may die tomorrow,” Buffington said.

The printer has had only two repairs in the 13 years the department has had it. Replacing it could cost $5,000 to $6,000.

“I want to be thinking about it and have funds there,” Buffington said.

Other departments will be presenting their FY20 budgets over the next several weeks.