Highway budget feels the pressure of higher costs

Highway budget feels the pressure of higher costs
As inflation affects everything from gas prices to budgets, the Weakley County highway budget is not exempt from feeling the pressure as well. This past Tuesday afternoon, the Finance, Ways and Means committee met to discuss two funds of the highway department and decide how to best remedy a deficit in the highway capital projects fund. Road supervisor Kermit Hopper reported that all BRZ bridges have been paid in full and have completed final inspection. This year, the department will begin work on a large wooden bridge and possibly seven to eight more bridges. Plastic culverts are used for drainage because they carry a 50-year life expectancy over a 10-year life expectancy for metal culverts. After the culverts are well-worn and used up, they are sold and this year’s supply was able to bring in $11,000. When Hopper brought up the possibility of implementing a coal mix program was when he was reminded that he was facing a problem in the operating account and that something would have to be cut. “There’s no equipment in here,” Commissioner Jimmy Westbrook said. “There’s no capital outlay to speak of in the budget.” With no equipment, the deficit is $276,000. Last year, half of the capital outlay was used to purchase the equipment, but due to a lack of capital outlay this year, the problem remains. A suggestion was made to possibly put $300,000 from the local roads line item into the capital projects fund and issue capital outlay notes to purchase the equipment. “We’re limited to what we can do in this fund,” Commissioner Roger Stewart admitted. “We can’t put in salaries, benefits and repairs.” “We we do the coal mix program, it will take the help of at least seven people — four truck drivers and three to operate the machines. We can’t have a master plan for road fixing,” Hopper admitted. “I can’t help that inflation is kicking me. If we take out from local roads, we wouldn’t have enough to do anything else. If we take away road materials, that’s just a detriment. It’s an uphill battle and we need help trying to offset this. We can’t absorb the lick that’s hitting us.” The committee unanimously agreed that the coal mix program was “the way to go,” but could not come up with a solution as of yet to what chairman Dick Phebus called a “$480,000 problem.” A motion was made and passed for Hopper to come back with a balanced budget by next Monday.

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