Commissioners updated on road projects
Road projects and issues were the focus of the latest Harrison County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, while the highway department had a few days left before the county engineer resigned from his full-time role.
Earlier this month, Kevin Russel announced he was resigning from the Harrison County Highway Dept. after 20 years and would join Jacobi, Toombs & Lanz. During last Tuesday night’s meeting (moved from Monday due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day), the commissioners approved an agreement with the civil and survey engineers.
Russel, the county commissioners and leaders at the private company had discussed working with Russel, when needed, until his successor was hired.
Glen Bube, superintendent of the county highway department, said the agreement was for “engineering assistance during our transition period.”
Russel’s last day was Jan. 24. The day before, progress was made on the Lanesville connector road project, with 88-foot beams arriving to be set in place for bridge construction.
(It came to light at Monday night’s Harrison County Council meeting that a $25,000 contract between the county commissioners and Jacobi, Toombs & Lanz may be in jeopardy due to the lack of a line item for contractual services. The contract was made to allow Russel to assist with any work needed in Harrison County after his departure.)
The connector road project nearly hit a roadblock when some additional funds were requested by the construction management company, which has told county officials they will actually save the county money when the work is completed.
Due to Indiana Dept. of Transportation guidelines, American Structurepoint has to be on site to supervise and inspect work by the contracting firm, Ragle Inc., as it builds a bridge as part of the connector road that will run between Interstate 64 and S.R. 64. Ragle has been granted an extension on its deadline to finish due to poor weather conditions during the last year.
To cover the supervisor fees, American Structurepoint has requested an additional $406,197.99. Though, before resigning, Russel said additional funds available at the federal level should bring the county another $558,000 to cover this expense and others on the project.
“When (Ragle) doesn’t work, we reduce our staff,” said Josh Culver with American Structurepoint, who is the field manager for the company in the region and is responsible for on-site inspections. “When they have periods of heavy work, we have to increase it to match what they have there and the work they’re anticipating doing to ensure that we’re following all the INDOT parameters.”
During the Jan. 13 Harrison County Council meeting, councilman Kyle Nix made a motion to deny the request. It received an immediate second by councilman Gary Byrne.
“If the contractor’s not out there working on the road, I don’t see how we can have people out on-site doing engineering when the design work is already done,” Nix said. “And that contractor isn’t getting an extension on what they’re getting paid but the company that is supposed to be there while they’re working is getting $400,000.”
Culver’s response was that there was a lot of work regarding erosion control issues, especially in the beginning, and adding that the bridge wasn’t getting built, necessarily, but work to get the bridge built was still taking place. American Structurepoint was still required to be there.
With the funds, the county is expected to see a savings of approximately $150,000 when the work is completed.
“I’m hoping this motion dies so we can make a new motion to approve this,” said councilwoman Jennie Capelle.
When the vote came, Nix and Byrne both voted to deny the request. Byrne said he had voted against every motion regarding constructing the Lanesville connector road. Councilor Ross Schulz also supported the additional, just one vote shy to deny the additional.
“We don’t have an hour sheet or anything in front of us to stipulate those hours that were logged,” Nix said.
He added since the council can’t see exactly where the county’s money is going, he has a feeling that since more money is available and the project is going longer, American Structurepoint is trying to go for more money.
Councilwoman Holli Castetter made the motion to approve the request, which councilors Donnie Hussung, Brad Wiseman and Capelle all supported, granting the funds be approved.
“I did support it because the end result is it’s costing the county less money,” Hussung said.
The county also moved closer to reopening Doolittle Hill Road, near Elizabeth, which has been closed for the better part of a year.
Bonnie Money, a bridge engineer at USI Consultants, said the design is complete and comes at an estimated $340,000. Bids could be opened to select who will do the project in early March.
“That’s what I want to hear,” said Commissioner Jim Heitkemper.
The commissioners also heard concerns about safety on Corydon-Ramsey Road.
“I’ve lived on the road for over 40 years and we’ve never had a fatality on that road, but we had one two weeks ago,” Barb Rumple said.
Rumple was focused on the section of road between Sheri Lane and Sky Aire Road. She said after the road was widened, drivers began going a lot faster. She added that visibility has not improved and drivers are still hitting mailboxes and utility poles in the area.
“I cannot safely cross the road to get my mail out of the mailbox,” Rumple said.
Mel Quick-Miller, who works at the highway department, was in the crowd when Rumple asked the commissioners to look at the road and the impact the widening project had on her property.
“It sounds like we need to notify the sheriff’s department and let them go out there,” said Commissioner Kenny Saulman.
Rumple said she hasn’t had any luck getting a deputy to patrol the area.
“In my opinion, we’ve made the road safer by widening it and putting the edge on it,” Quick-Miller said. “The fact that people choose to speed on it is another condition that we, the highway department, can’t always address.”
The Harrison County Board of Commissioners’ next meeting will be Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.