LAFAYETTE COUNTY – At the Lafayette County Highway Committee on Thursday, Sept. 12, Lafayette County Highway Commissioner Tom Jean addressed department’s proposed 2020 budget and criticism received from the Finance Department.
“We have gotten some flack from the Finance Department for turning in a zero increase budget,” Jean said. “If I were running the finance office, I would be patting us on the back. I think budgets should come in with the amount of money that’s available to the county and then you work backwards from there.”
Jean continued, “I realize that at the Highway Department we have more flexibility than other departments, i.e. the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Department doesn’t know how many high profile crimes they’re going to have in a year and they can’t budget for that. What I do is if we have a lot of snow events in the winter, then I cut back on how many roads we sealcoat or we don’t buy a new snowplow. I’m getting tired of the Finance Department chastising us and telling us our budget is not realistic.”
Jean talked about budgeting for future projects and having fund balances built up over a four year time period so the county can take advantage of 50 percent matching state or federal funding.
Highway Department office manager Shelly Schutt started by saying, “You’ll see that we have $4.7 million in the fund balance account. That’s a little scary and we weren’t sure all that money was there. We sat down with the auditors and Finance Department and they confirmed us that it is the correct balance.”
Jean said, “I still have some reservations if there is really that much money in there.”
“One specific fund balance of $1.1 million (which is being kept separate),” Jean stated, “came from borrowed funds of $400,000 and $700,000 that were used for the Hilltop Center (formerly the Multi-Purpose building). The Hilltop Center and the bike trail projects - we were paying the expenses out of Highway Department and then we received reimbursements and those funds have been building up.
The levy money the Highway Department is asking the county for is $2.2 million. Jean said, “We’re not asking for more then we ever have. How they get it to us is up to the Finance Committee. Of the $2.2 million, $400,000 will be used to purchase fixed assets (truck). I don’t care if they borrow for that or what they do, it doesn’t make any difference as long as we get our $2.2 million. I just know that with state levy limits statutes, they’re going to come in at $400,000 or $500,000 over budget for the county and they’ll be looking for a place to exceed the levy limit without going to referendum. They’re going to come to us and say we’re going to cut your levy amount by $400,000 and we’ll give you $400,000 in borrowed funds.”
The 2020 proposed Highway Budget was approved unanimously.
Lafayette County Board Chairman Jack Sauer brought up fuel bids. Sauer stated he received a complaint from a local fuel vendor expressing displeasure that a fuel vendor from outside the county was awarded recent bid.
The highway department’s fuel pumps provide fuel for all county vehicles, including Sheriff’s Dept., and highway trucks; Darlington Fire and EMS and township vehicles.
Jean said, “When a vendor sends us a request to bid, we have to honor it. Because we’re a public entity”
Sauer gave his opinion, “We have Saunders Oil, Pecatonica Co-op, New Horizons, FS and there are probably another ones in the county. We have plenty of vendors in the county, all of those people are paying taxes, employing people and supporting local civic groups and the fair with donations.”
Sauer continued, “We should look very closely at which company is the most advantageous to the county on these fuel bids. Secondly, I was surprised to find out that the committee doesn’t do the fuel bidding. The committee is going to catch the hell on who does or who doesn’t get the bids, so I believe the committee should look at the bids. You can show me the difference in cost, but I can’t believe there’s much difference.”
Jean said, “It’s about a penny per gallon. Regarding your second point of having the committee do it. We can change our whole method of choosing the bids, but it’s the timeliness of it. When the tank gets down to 20%, I will bid for fuel that morning. Their prices are only good for 12 hours and it will be delivered that day.”
Schutt said, “A penny a gallon would equal $400 per tanker load and as much as $5,000 per year.
Jean asked, “When we have these companies from outside the county who specifically ask to bid out fuel, can we say we are not accepting their bid because they’re outside the county?”
Sauer said, “We can accept the bid that is most advantageous to the county.”
Jean will look into it and check with Corporate Council or League of Municipalities regarding the legalities of refusing out-of-county bids.
•Approved two sets of Aug. vouchers, most of them pertain to sealcoating – Set 1) $170,800 of that sealcoating oil from HG Miegs at $41,298; piping inventory from Contech - $15,000; chips from Little Giant - $27,488; sign post inventory Decker Supply - $4,300; unleaded fuel from Energy Solutions of Tomah - $16,252; truck repair - $10,000. Set 2) $215,000 of that sealcoating chips from BARD - $21,518; chips and gravel from Ivey - $7,414; sealcoating oil from HG Miegs - $183,305.
•At a previous meeting approved July vouchers of $451,176, most of this is for sealcoating. Miegs – 186 gallons of sealcoating oil - $361,175; BARD for chips - $13,733; Little Giant for chips - $29,000
•August overtime report - $923 overtime, $396 comp time for a total of $1,319.
•Discussed the Hilltop Center costing approximately $900,000. Highway Dept. paid $200,000 and the county borrowed $700,000 to pay for the rest.
•Discussed construction of 8.8 miles of Co. Hwy. G from Belmont to Calamine. The road will mill off 1.5 inches and hot mix asphalt of 2.5 inches will be laid back down on it. It is expected to be a $1.3 million project, and will be matched 50% by the state. The job is out for bid (opening is set for Oct. 3) and is to be completed by Nov. 22, 2019.
•Discussed bridge updates.
At a previous meeting Jean received a contract from MSA Professional Services of Madison for the design of the Co. D bridge, just north of South Wayne. This will be a two party contract between MSA and Lafayette County Highway Dept. and is for the design of the approaches (road realignment). Lafayette County Highway Commissioner Tom Jean stated that our portion of the contract will be $30,000. The three party contract between Lafayette Highway, MSA and WisDOT will be $90,000 that we will be responsible for. The committee approved giving Jean authority to approve those contracts.
Russell Road Project – the bridge is completed. Blacktop, guardrails and riprap still needs to be done. The County Highway Dept. did the work on a new type of bridge - pre-cast aluminum bridge. The bridge will cost less then $100,000 total, $40,000 of TRIP funds will be applied, so Lafayette County and Town of Kendall will split the remaining $60,000 at $30,000 apiece.
Discussed a bridge on Co. Hwy. G in Town of Willow Springs. Several complaints and criticism were seen on social media. Jean stated the has looked into the bridge and it doesn’t meet the threshold to be replaced.
• Patrol Superintendent Dan Rielly gave an update on summer maintenance: sealcoating is all done, the county sealcoated close to 100 miles this year. The crew is cold mix patching right now.
•Discussed Equipment updates. Turned damage from a truck into insurance that blew a tire and damaged the inner fender and hood. The hood alone was estimated at $4,200.
At a previous meeting a rollback truck was purchased at auction by Sauer for $25,000.
•Approved the purchase of a Generac generator for the Hilltop Center from Norse Electric. The cost will come out of the Highway funds in the amount of $21,098. The generator will be purchased at the same time as a generator that is being purchased for the Health Department.