Paving prices ‘hurting’ some Butler County governments

The Butler County Engineer’s Office plans to spend about $500,000 more to resurface roads in 2018.

The department is on a program to get back to a more reasonable resurfacing cycle from 27 years to 17 or 18 years, according to Butler County Engineer Greg Wilkens.

The department is using chip and seal and black mat more now — as opposed to asphalt resurfacing — because the price difference of $9 per square yard to $2.50, he said.

His office bids the paving work county and township roads but the townships have to pay for roads within their limits.

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“The townships are hurting, they are struggling with that and we see it too,” Wilkens said adding they use the more chip and seal fixes because they are more cost effective. “The public is upset over that because over the years they were used to asphalt resurfacing.”

This year Wilkens rejected initial bids for chip seal and black mat that came in because they were too high. The bids for both came back a second time at around $1.4 million for 28.7 miles, which was still about double the initial estimate. The plan for this year was to repave 28.3 miles of county and township roads for a total cost of $5 million.

Wilkens said part of the pricing problem is the number of companies who pave for public entities has dwindled since the recession.

“There are two big contractors and a number of contractors that do public work have gone out of business since then,” he said. “It makes the bidding process, it isn’t as competitive when there are only two. The more you get in the game the better prices you’re going to get. It’s not good.”

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Tim Franck the community services director for West Chester Twp., agreed the costs have gone up and using other methods are good options for fixing streets in between full blown repaving.

“It’s not realistic to repave a street every 10 or in some cases even 15 years, when there are other options available,” Franck said. “We use slurry as an option or other repairs. Sometimes we just do crack sealing or patching to improve the ride on those streets. In most cases the base, the core infrastructure is in good condition.”

Ross Twp. Administrator Bob Bass said they have “aggressively” done routine maintenance so their roads are in pretty good shape. But he said they could be struggling just like Wilkens said in the not to distant future, as their roads age.

“In the long term as those roads slowly get to the category where they need to be paved, yes we’re definitely going to be in that position,” he said. “The cost of paving nowadays is just more than Ross can take.”

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