Piper: Road, bridge maintenance costs skyrocket

First Posted: 4/24/2015

LIMA — There is just not enough money to properly maintain our roads and bridges, Allen County’s engineer said Friday.

Allen County Engineer Tim Piper discussed road maintenance issues with the Allen County business community during the Lima/Allen Chamber of Commerce’s Wake Rattle and Roll on Friday at Veterans Memorial Civic Center. With roads and bridges being a major logistical cog in the operation of many businesses, Piper wanted the business community to be educated on what goes into road maintenance.

“People don’t realize where engineer funding comes from,” he said.

Rather than getting revenue from sales or property taxes, 85 percent of county engineer funding comes from vehicle license fees and the state gas tax.

“The last time the gas tax was raised was in 2003,” Piper said. “The last license fee increase was in 1983.”

While revenues have not increased, expenses have continued to rise, with paving costs up 158 percent from 2002 to 2013, Piper said. To mitigate this shortfall, the engineer’s office has taken various steps, including looking for available federal and state funds while also rebuilding instead of replacing nonfunctional equipment.

“We’ve also reduced our employees in the last 10 years from 62 to 56,” he said. “We share manpower and equipment with the townships and ODOT.”

Other options include raising the license fees and gas tax, along with a $5 permissive tax that could help the department’s revenues.

“We’ve been voted down three times,” Piper said. “We have one out of a possible three permissive taxes.”

For Chamber president Jed Metzger, the need to tackle this issue is very real.

“We need to find some means to address these infrastructure problems,” he said. “I’m on a group of chambers throughout the country working on a federal level, trying to get a bipartisan bill presented because at the end of May, from the federal government’s standpoint, they need to make a decision on this infrastructure bill or there will be no money to do anything with. Now there’s very little money.”

For Wannemacher Total Logistics, access to well-maintained roads is an essential part of its operations.

“Everyone wants to pay as little as possible, but it costs money to maintain,” Bob Stechschulte, vice-president of internal systems, said. “One of our cores is making sure product moves and gets where it needs to go.”

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