HANCOCK COUNTY — County road crews have been on alert since January patching the cracks, holes and canyons created by 2014’s brutal, brittle winter, but they’ve been hard against it since mid-March laying down tons of asphalt.
One shovelful at a time, more than 1,000 tons of patch material has been put down on the county’s roads this year, and there’s still a fair amount of work pending, according to county highway superintendent Randy Moore.
Last year, the county used 820 tons of asphalt to repair county roadways, and this year it will use a lot more as it’s already running 200 tons more than 2013 with about 30 percent of its work orders still outstanding, Moore said.
Moore told county commissioners Tuesday that road crews have completed 607 of the 849 current work orders.
“This last winter took a beating on everybody with the freeze-thaw cycle,” Moore said
“It’s a lot,” county engineer Gary Pool said of the amount of asphalt patch pressed into the roads since January. “It would be like having two houses piled up with asphalt.
“We’ve run between 75 and 100 truckloads of asphalt, and we’ve probably got another 500 tons to go,” Pool said.
Most of the remaining work exists in the county’s outlying townships, with 35 open orders in Blue River, 30 in Vernon and 29 in Sugar Creek, according to a report presented to commissioners Tuesday.
Moore said crews have been allowed to work overtime to try to get ahead of the curve; however, now that the weather is allowing paving projects to get under way, there aren’t as many workers available for patching projects.
“Right now we could have four or five crews out a day if we could,” Moore said.
The highway department recently automated its work order system, which is making work easier to manage and track, officials say.
“Before we automated, we had a pile of orders about three inches thick, and we’d wonder how we were going to get through that,” Moore said.
In addition to tracking particular jobs, the new system allows the department to look strategically at what crews are doing and analyze whether continued repairs are the most efficient way to proceed, Pool said.
Moore said road repairs will continue until the job is caught up, but spring rains might also become a factor.
Pool said the additional amount of asphalt needed this season along with the extra salt required last winter to keep roads clear is stretching the department’s dollars, and he’s watching the numbers and making adjustments to ensure he stays within his budget.
But with winter in the rearview mirror, Pool is optimistic about getting the county’s roads back into shape.
“I do think we’re winning,” he said.