Lack of road funding poses challengesPublished 3:48pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The Cass County Road Commission has been working this year to not only close the gap between road reconstruction and road maintenance but also to raise the smile levels of residents who use the road system.
With $500,000 in road funds vanishing in the past six years because of reduced state funding, decisions about how to do more for less – and in less time – is dominating the decisions that are coming out of headquarters in Cassopolis.
Some of those were shared recently with the Cass County Board of Commissioners when the road commission’s manager, Louis Csokasy, reviewed changes the agency is making to get the most bang for the public buck.
That includes not only moving to a preventative maintenance system that uses chip and seal to keep newer roads in better shape longer, but also to implement an in-house review system in customer service. The goals are to become more effective and efficient and to be able to quantify that numerically.
“It is not enough to say that I’m doing better today,” Csokasy said this week. “You have to point to something quantifiable that proves that the agency is better today.”
The longer that Csokasy sits at the helm of the road commission, a position he assumed early this year, the less sure he is that the public really understands everything that the road commission does.
“And they don’t need to,” he said. “When they need us, we have to be there.”
He pointed to a recent morning when high winds led to 39 telephone calls of trees down across the county’s roads.
That particular situation drove his thought process about what kinds of things to share with the county commissioners that would better explain what really went on this year at the road commission.
At this point, the agency has its road work divided into two main areas and those are work inside of the white lines (road surface) and work outside of those lines. Work inside of the white lines “is money that we actually spend on the roads,” Csokasy said.
It does not include, as he explained, money that is spent on mowing grass within the commission’s 8,000 miles of road right of way, handling brush, paying for liability insurance, building, equipment, and health insurance, or other expenses, Of the road commission’s $6.8 million budget, $2.5 million of the money is being spent directly on roads, he said.
The commission is changing its focus regarding re-graveling, asphalting and chip and seal of roads. This year, road crews applied chip and seal to 13 miles of local roads and nearly 22 miles of primary roads, the latter which was paid for entirely with federal stimulus funds.