County to feel has-price hike in the cost of road repair

The Marion County Commission got a cold splash of oil price reality in the face Sept. 1, with bid openings from contractors for hard-surface road overlays that ran from nearly $200,000 to almost $600,000 more than the county engineer’s estimate of $1.398 million.

In discussion with engineers and road and bridge personnel, the commissioners seemed to think that with the day-to-day fluctuation of fuel prices, a factor in the unexpected range of pricing might have been the particular date each bid was put together.

County consulting engineer Mike Olson said that on top of pricing problems, contractors had expressed concern, given the oil situation, as to whether they could get materials on time for the contractual late date start of Oct. 3.

Olson noted that the county had planned for a 2-inch overlay on the roads, and that perhaps it could economize by doing 1.5 inches in places.

“But we don’t want to put on material that won’t perform,” he added.

The engineer’s estimate for bituminous overlays this fall was $1.398 million while the low bidder was Shilling Construction of Manhattan at $1,579,673. The other two bids were $1,584,768 from Venture Corp. of Great Bend and $1,958,811 from Koss Construction at Topeka.

On an alternate bid for Pawnee Road, the total figures starting with the estimate and then the three companies, respectively, were $80,000, $97,331, $88,844 and $111,536.

Olson said, “We want to see what Marion County actually can afford.”

The best surprise of the day was a record county sales tax receipt that showed the county could afford a tiny bit more than before.

County Clerk Carol Maggard announced that June sales tax, collected in July and disbursed in August, was $51,796, a record monthly collection over 6.5 years of recent comparisons.

Tax collected for the same month last year was $48,088.

Commissioners have guessed at the reasons for rising sales taxes, beginning with now retired commissioners from a year ago.

Guesses have ranged from new state law requiring tax money to return to the home county of the consumer, to higher prices for goods and services that increase collections.

Commissioner Dan Holub asked if there was a way to find out the cause, and Maggard said she would ask County Treasurer Jeannine Bateman to investigate.

Maggard announced a “very large” payday figure, the amount commissioners pay out once a month for all bills plus wages, of $869,103.

She said this included larger-than-normal amounts from road and bridge for sealing oil plus upgrades at the transfer station plus partial payment to dirt movers and the engineer involved in closing the old landfill southwest of Marion.

The commissioners, deciding to allow time for public input after visiting with County Attorney Susan Robson, will decide at the next meeting Sept. 12 whether to allow sales of alcoholic beverages, beer and liquor, on county-administered land outside the cities.

Robson confirmed for the commissioners that they can give land within city boundaries to the cities to aid in development that might otherwise have been auctioned for delinquent taxes.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said the commissioners would need to confer with cities to see if giving them the land would help, or if it was property that no one would actually want.

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