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Newton County - Precinct 4 - Mid-Year Update


Precinct 4 – 2nd Quarter (mid-year) Update

This week ends the 2nd work quarter and marks the mid-way point of 2023. I’m excited to tell you where we stand on budget and work plans/completions.

So, let’s get started reviewing 5 categories of 2023 Operating Budget, Paving, Road Maintenance, Drainage Improvements, and Grants. Budget points will be supported by Charts and Graphs, that illustrate the status of financials at a glance.

2023 Operating Budget (graphs/charts provided):

As we discussed in the 1st quarter report, the General Fund account contains the money that all offices operate from, except for the Commissioners. By State law, 15% of the total tax levy goes to the “Road and Bridge” fund. The Road and Bridge account is where the Commissioners operate from. This “15% system” is set up by Texas State Law, to ensure that frivolous spending at the County level does not result in “run down” roads, bridges, and infrastructure.

Precinct 4 has spent 51% of our “Operating & Maintenance Budget” at the mid-way point, I expect to spend 100% of the O&M budget by the end of the year (we have contingency funds). The top three expense categories in the O&M budget are Road Materials, Equipment Repairs and Fuel. I expect Road Materials to always be the top expenditure for O&M, followed by fuel, and due to the age/condition of the equipment I expect Equipment Repairs to remain at the top of the list for at least the next two more years.

Precinct 4 has spent 47% of our “Payroll Budget” at the mid-way point. The payroll budget should end the year with funds remaining (along with some contingency). Starting January of 2023, Pct 4 began to pay overtime. We only work extra hours when circumstances are required. However, we have been able to manage the budget in the positive while paying employees for hours worked.

Precinct 4’s budget proposed operating and maintenance budget for 2024 has increased since my first quarter report. The equipment repair and maintenance costs are much higher than expected. The drainage improvements will require more materials, such as culverts and base, than I originally planned. Pct 4 will require more funds than what will come from the Tax Levy. The money required above (what is collected from taxes) will come out of the Pct 4 cash fund. My plan results in the 2024 O&M budget exceeding the 2023 O&M budget by approximately $12,000.00. 2024 budget will be $320,000.00.

Paving:

In the first quarter I stated that “with exceptions of emergencies, such as the road failure in front of the Hartburg Center on CR4181, I plan to start paving roads in 2024”. The emergency work on CR4181 was completed after the Commissioners Court approved a budget amendment that allowed me to use Precinct 4 funds that were not budgeted in 2022, for the current fiscal year of 2023.

The paving projects will be budgeted for 2024, with the goal of completing the projects during the 2024 year. However, contractor availability and the price of materials vary and could push some of the projects to 2025. Again, we will budget the work for 2024 and evaluate the situation next year.

Road Maintenance:

We have continued our efforts to improve signs that support motorists in making the right decisions regarding speed, children at play, stop, and or other signs that help motorists successfully and safely navigate the roadways. Our “straighten up” initiative has resulted in the installation of 27 Children at Play signs, 23 Speed Limit signs, 6 Stop signs, and we are now adding signs that help with Emergency response by listing the communities by names which are often what “people refer to” when pressured and or confused.

Over the past several weeks, Pct 4 has resurfaced several roads with TXDOT provided “recovered asphalt materials” which is referred to as RAP. This material works great on dirt and oil sand-based roads, and it has also held up on some asphalt roads that are riddled with potholes. Expect this to be a yearly occurrence, at least if TXDOT continues to resurface major highways, which results in us being provided with the recovered product.

We continued our efforts to lessen the accumulation of standing water on roadways by blading the built-up dirt from the shoulders of roadways. This process will go much smoother in the future as we have acquired a “street sweeper” that attaches to the back of our tractor. This device lessens the closeness that the maintainer blade must get to the pavement, as it removes some amount of dirt itself.

We have continued our approach to do less “hole patching” and more “road patching”. The “one shovel at a time” approach is something that we work every day to eliminate. This approach continues to pay dividends in the Sheppard Settlement/Old Champion & Gist areas and eliminating the cutting away of the road surface that happens when maintainers try to “cut the potholes out” of the roadway.

We hauled 28 loads of sand to Wright Settlement Road {CR3111} to lessen the negative impact of the “red clay”. We also hauled 11 loads of white rock on CR3111 & CR3112, these efforts will continue in the third quarter and should help reduce the “wash boarding effect” that worsened with the addition of the sand. Again, the sand has a purpose and with the rock being added atop the sand and red clay, I am confident that the result will be an improved roadway.


Drainage improvements:

We replaced 11 culverts while awaiting the arrival of our new excavator and grading bucket. This was not an easy task due to the “slop” in the bucket of the old excavator. However, we worked with hand tools to bring the bottom of the culvert basins to the desired grade.

Our new excavator and grading bucket have arrived, and we are now working in the Sunset Acres area. It may seem odd to some people, but we are filling in the ditches with sand to bring the bottom of ditches equal to and/or slightly higher than the bottom of the culverts. This approach should allow the ditches to be grassed in to hold the sand and mowed by the homeowners.

We expect to be working on the east side of Hwy 87 in Sunset for another 3 weeks, then we will move to the west side of Hwy 87 and continue working drainage in Sunset for approximately 6-8 more weeks. The drainage crew of 2 employees will work 3 days a week on drainage, and then return to “routine” operations on Thursday, to close out the week and make roads ready for the weekend.

Drainage improvements (continued):

I have received approval for access to “cleanout” the canal that runs behind Sunset to Hwy 87. Today, I visited with the third party that is coordinating the cleaning out of the canal around Sunset. There is a meeting this week that may result in a timeline for this work.

After Sunset, our drainage crew will be in the Old Champion and Gist areas for months. Again, working 3 days each work week. Afterwards, we will move to Wright Settlement, Yeary Road, Sandpit Road, Ira Richardson, and Sheppard Road. These areas, once complete, will be improved, as will the previous. During this work, we will use Thursday to address outlying issues that may include some isolated drainage issues. We will schedule and execute work task to maximize efficiencies and time in the field; less travel time on State highways and more time working our roads, is my plan.


Grants:

CR3132 & CR3142

Extensions have been filed for these projects. CR3132 will likely not occur until 2024 due to Pipeline work traffic that is scheduled for late 2023 to early 2024. These improvements include ditches, drainage, and base building, with rock being the top grade completing the project (no asphalt).

CR3148 & CR3149, CR4122 & CR4181 (north end)

These 4 projects are GLO (General Land Office) projects, and there is no match on these grants. Meaning they will not cost the County any money! All four projects are currently being advertised for bid, and we hope to begin construction within the next 6-8 weeks.


Financials for Precinct 4:







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