The Porter County
Highway Department has proposed that the County acquire the equipment
necessary to chip and seal County roads without hiring an outside contractor
in a purchase that would total $750,000.
Supervisor Rich Sexton and Assistant Supervisor Jim Polarek brought the
presentation before the Porter County Board of Commissioners at its meeting
Tuesday. Sexton reported that Porter County used to do its own chip and seal
on County Roads, but a previous administration opted to move toward using
contractors when the equipment started to reach end of life rather than
Sexton was prepared
to show return on investment. “This equipment’s eventually gonna pay for
itself,” he said, adding that the County would recoup its expenditure on new
equipment in six years or less just by not having to pay contractors for
With this purchase,
the timeline, including start and end dates, of chip and seal is up to the
County rather than at the convenience of a contractor, and it allows for
better quality control, according to Sexton.
Chip and sealed
roads have a lifetime of five years, Polarek said. Paving over a chip and
seal road requires going back to the base and establishing a stronger
foundation for the road. Sexton said this equipment would also allow the
Highway Department to add to the base of the roads.
self-sufficient for chip and seal, the County would need a new asphalt
zipper and chip spreader. Sexton threw in a mower that fits under guardrails
for more efficient maintenance, especially on bridges, where he says some of
his employees have to use individual weed eaters.
The asphalt zipper
mounts on a front loader, which the County already has one of in each
district. The asphalt zipper also allows for the addition of lime
stabilization to form a harder and more durable road. Sexton said the use of
the asphalt zipper by an outside contractor cost $26,000 last year, and
adding lime stabilization would have required the intervention of yet
another company. The last chip spreader the County owned was a 1989 model.
Sexton reports that Porter County spent $91,017.24 to preserve 22.56 miles
of road this year.
Money from the
bridge fund would contribute to the purchase of the guardrail mower. Sexton
also thinks that County-done chip and sealing uses fuel tax dollars more
efficiently. Polarek said the Highway Department receives a share of federal
funding each month, and even though he and Sexton have budgeted to keep a
reserve of around $200,000 in the Highway Department’s coffers at all times,
there will be enough money to fund the purchase. At the time of the meeting,
they asked for an additional appropriation to earmark $750,000 for the chip
and seal equipment, which the Board approved.
Blaney, D-South, said, “This is an investment in ourselves. Money that we
already have, it’s a no brainer.” Blaney also noted that paving
inconveniences residents, and not needing a contractor can reduce
construction time. Sexton said his plan is to do 100 miles of road
preservation next year and going forward, but his crews won’t be in one
Sexton says Newton
County takes advantage of having chip and seal equipment by starting as soon
as possible, and Porter County can do the same. “As soon as the threat of a
heavy freeze is gone, they’re out doing their roads.” Sexton says some roads
could be done in four days from start to finish.
“We’re at the mercy
of the subcontractors now. This way, we’re being proactive,” Good said,
noting the Department would also have the freedom to widen the road and
deepen the base. Good added, “If we have 816 miles of road in this County
unincorporated, I think we need to be in this business,” Good said.
The Board also
approved a traffic study for U.S. 6 between Meridian Road and Calumet
Avenue. Good clarified that this stretch is the last section where U.S. 6 is
a two-lane road in Porter County, starting by Sunset Hill Farm County Park
and passing Ind. 49 and the hospital.
The traffic study
is intended to convince state representatives, who maintain U.S. 6, that
that section of road should be widened. Under the five-year plan for that
area, the state has not listed widening that section. Having analytics will
help convince them.
The Board approved
a contract with American Structurepoint for $22,120 for the traffic study.
Good noted that the Highway Department can conduct its own traffic studies,
but the County has to bring in an outside firm that the state trusts for the
results to have any pull.
Good said, “It’s
becoming a very, very busy corridor, so we need to get some relief up
there,” while Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, pointed out that the two-lane
road limits economic growth by limiting further development near the