County looking to save on road repairs

Published 6:38 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Maintenance of dirt roads is one of the top issue continually facing Decatur County government officials, who are looking to get as much work done as their dollars will stretch to cover.

At a workshop meeting county commissioners held Tuesday night before their regular meeting, County Public Works Superintendent Dennis Medley presented a new cost-savings measure that could be taken.

Medley believes the county can save money and help ensure lasting quality for dirt roads using a technique first used in 2010. Traditionally, when dirt roads are made rough by weather and travel, a motor grader is used to smooth out the road again, but how long the road stays in good condition can vary.

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A newer option involves layering several inches of material known as “GAB” (graded aggregate base) on top of the road, rolling it out and packing it tight to create a surface that will feel like it is paved, according to Medley. An even more advanced method involves putting down a geotextile mat underneath the GAB to keep it from washing away or otherwise eroding.

Medley said the more advanced method was tested to positive results in 2010, when the county made improvements to McLeroy Road, located in the remote southwestern part of the county.

“I have not had to send a motor grader out there in the past two years, that’s how good [the method] works,” Medley said.

Assuming the county can afford to pay for the required materials, that could be great news for people who live along dirt roads that are frequently made impassable, especially ones that may never be paved.

At the core of either of the county’s “new and improved” road maintenance techniques is GAB, which consists of crushed concrete mixed with asphalt and is made in bulk.

Previously, Decatur County has had to pay a contractor such as Oxford Construction to produce the GAB needed for roads. However, on Tuesday night, Medley proposed another option—letting Public Works employees crush concrete and asphalt the county has reclaimed and held in surplus.

To provide an idea of the cost savings that could be realized, Medley presented commissioners with several different options for producing the GAB.

The most expensive option is the traditional one, buying ready-to-go GAB directly from a company like Oxford, which charges $20 per ton; to get the 18,000 tons the county needs for its planned work, commissioners would have to pay $360,000.

The second option is to pay a company to crush the concrete and asphalt the county already has. A quote from Golden Environmental would charge $7.25 per ton to crush the concrete; Oxford charges $8.30 per ton.

However, the third option and the least expensive would be for county employees to use rented equipment to crush the concrete. Medley estimated that cost to be $67,475, which would include rental of a crusher and pulverizer, fuel consumption, additional equipment and delivery charges. He said the figure does not include the cost of “wear-and-tear” to items such as grinder teeth, equipment belts, etc. However, he said he did not estimate those costs to be burdensome because the rental company’s “wear-and-tear” fees are much less than the full cost of replacing the parts outright.

It would take four county employees, supervised by foreman Bobby Newton running an excavator, about 25 days to crush 18,000 tons of concrete, according to Medley’s estimates. The process involves mounting a pulverizer onto an excavator with teeth, which together break up the concrete slabs into smaller, more manageable pieces. The smaller pieces get loaded into a crusher

“It’s something we’ve never done before but I feel confident our men can do this,” said Medley, who has researched the crushing process and related safety. “We just have to try it and see how well it works, but I think we can see some great savings for the county.”

The first road to benefit from the GAB will be Dell Road, which like McLeroy Road, is located in a remote pocket of the county about 28 miles southwest of the County Public Works Department office in Bainbridge. Medley said he thinks the 18,000 tons of GAB that could be produced would cover resurfacing of Dell Road—about two miles in length—and also be used for two additional projects.