County road crews boost efficiency in a time of diminishing HURF funds

BUTCH MERIWETHER<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->A county road grader operator performs maintenance on South Dome Road in Golden Valley. (Courtesy)

BUTCH MERIWETHER<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->A county road grader operator performs maintenance on South Dome Road in Golden Valley. (Courtesy)

One of the hot topics and/or complaints discussed by many residents Mohave County over a cup of coffee and on the various social media outlets is the current condition of the county's roadways. However, many don't understand the county encompasses an extremely large area.

Mohave County has 13,461 square miles, making it the second largest county in Arizona and the fifth largest in the contiguous United States.

Of the abovementioned square miles, the county has 10,049 miles of roads of which 2,107 miles are maintained by the county's Road Division. That includes 89.91 miles of tertiary maintained dirt roads, 1,209.33 miles of regularly scheduled maintained dirt roads, and 807.76 miles of hard-surfaced roads. Of those figures, 871.05 are designated as county highways. More on that will be explained in another column.

It takes a lot of revenue to maintain the county's roadway system and to pay the salaries and benefit packages of the Road Division personnel. In just the last three years, the budget approved for the Road Division went up almost $2 million.

• 2014, the budget was approved for $8,663,563.38 and its expenditure target was $7,369,809.60;

• 2015, the budget was approved for $8,681,014 and its expenditure target was $6,979.149 (slightly lower than 2014);

• Last year, the approved budget was $10,-456,760 and its expenditure operating target was $8,550-,990.

The abovementioned figures reflect that the 2014-2015 Highway User Revenue Funds funds received by the Road Division were 8 percent less than what was distributed in 2005-2006.

The Road Division operates on HURF money provided by the state of Arizona and generated through the collection of revenue for motor vehicle operator licenses, motor carrier fees, vehicle license taxes, state gas and diesel fuel taxes and other road use permit fees. During 2013, Mohave County received $10,261,385; in 2014, it received $10,638,844; and in 2015, it received $11,547,728 in HURF moneys, but not all HURF goes directly to the Road Division. Some is given to the Engineering, Traffic Control and Equipment Maintenance divisions of Public Works that directly support the operation of the Road Division.

The Road Division includes a current staff of 88 people - an engineering manager, crew leaders, maintenance workers, various supervisors and office support workers. During the last three years, the Road Division operated with less people than authorized. In 2014, they operated with 63 personnel (28 percent vacancy); in 2015, they operated with 59 personnel (33 percent vacancy); and in 2016 they operated with only 64 personnel (27 percent vacancy).

The Road Division has a fairly large fleet of vehicles and equipment. Their current fleet includes 45 pickup trucks, 19 motor graders, five brooms (vehicles with rotating brooms to pick up debris from the road) and two pickup trucks with brooms attached to them, 13 loaders, 10 tractors, 13 water trucks and 10 dump trucks. However, the above list does not include the entire county's other heavy equipment inventory that is utilized in the support of the Road Division.

"The mission of the Road Division is to maintain those county roads accepted by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors," said Mohave County Public Works Director Steven Latowski. According to county officials, the Road Division's mission includes delivering routine maintenance, preventive maintenance and maintenance-related repairs toward sustaining road layout and condition relative to when the road was accepted for maintenance. The division further provides maintenance and protection of traffic during unplanned incidents affecting the normal operation of county roads.

According to Latowski, the Road Division of Public Works plans for and delivers near real-time response to occurrences of hazardous weather and related natural disasters. The division's adopted budget maintains an appropriation of funding to compensate for overtime expenditures attributed to employee callouts for assistance outside the normal business hours. Just some of the emergency callouts include incidents related to flooding-related responses during the monsoon season and snow and ice removal from the roads.

To complete their mission, in addition to the Road Division facilities in Kingman, they have field offices in Meadview, Golden Valley and Mohave Valley.

"Public Works has continually planned for and maintained a level of staffing (of the Road Division) consistent with available state distributed HURF revenue to which the Road Division's vacancy levels are attributed," Latowski said.