County to inspect more structures on roads


Small structures on roads, like culverts and short bridges, will be inspected for safety.

The Dubois County Commissioners agreed on Monday to spend $135,400 to inspect a total of 320 structures over three years. But that approval came after a lengthy discussion about the necessity of the work.

County Engineer Brent Wendholt explained that structures 20 feet and longer are inspected, a process that’s required by state law. But structures that are less than 20 feet long are not.

Those also need to be inspected, he said.

A third of the 320 structures will be inspected in a year for a little more than $40,000. The county is comprised of three districts; one district would be inspected each year for three years. After that, there would be no inspections for two years, Wendholt said. At that time, the county could choose to go through the inspection rotation again.

Commissioners Elmer Brames and Nick Hostetter agreed that the inspections should be done.

“These are county assets. They have value,” Hostetter said. “We want to take care of them and make that value last as long as possible.”

But Commissioners President Chad Blessinger originally was not in favor of the plan, especially if the structures are not heavily used.

“We’ve gone lots of years this way, and there hasn’t been any huge failures.,” he said. “If this was a priority, it would be mandated by the state and the state would put money behind it.”

Wendholt said some of the structures are heavily used. “Some are on heavily traveled roads,” he said.

Blessinger questioned if the money would be better used for paving work The money will come from the highway department’s cumulative bridge funding, Wendholt explained, which must be for projects relating to bridges.

“We can’t use that money for paving,” he said, “except for paving bridge approaches.”

County Highway Supervisor Steve Berg explained that some of these smaller structures have not been looked at for years, possibly decades. Highway workers can’t go out and check all of them because they are working on other roads. It would be good to know if a structure needs some maintenance work, he said.

“We don’t want a situation where we’re not sure of how good of a condition of a particular bridge is in. And suddenly a loaded truck drives across and this (bridge) falls in,” Berg said. “It’s about public safety.”

Hostetter said that checking the structures will mean that small repairs can be made to make the structures last longer. “Hopefully, this $40,000 investment extends the life of the bridges,” he said. “We don’t wait for a catastrophic failure and put a new bridge in. We make this bridge last 50 years, and we know it‘s going to last 50 years because we’re looking at it.”

Blessinger decided to support the plan, and made the motion to approve the work. Although he was concerned about the value that would come in comparison to the cost of the inspections, listening to Wendholt and Berg impressed on him the importance of doing the inspections, he said.

The commissioners also:
Purchased an ambulance from RSVP of Toledo, Ohio for $216,650.
Approved selling a triaxle truck the highway department was planning on trading in next year. The department received an offer of $40,000 for the truck; the trade value was estimated to be between $30,000 and $35,000, Berg said. The vehicle, which has an engine that was salvaged from another vehicle, will be sold as is, he said.
Approved buying for the highway department a trailer from Hopf Equipment of Evansville for $10,900, and a sander from Sternberg for $3,500.
Hired Astro Security to repair the courthouse elevator’s computer panel for $8,500. The work is being done to bring the elevator up to current code, Custodian Scott Hopf said.
Heard a presentation for installing an auto vehicle location service in the highway department’s road vehicles and equipment units, which Berg would like to have for the department’s 47 units. The service would allow the department to track the vehicles’ location and usage in real time. The cabling needed for the service would cost $35 per unit and the service would cost $18.95 per month for each unit.
Enacted a freeze-thaw ordinance that will be in effect from Jan. 15 to April 15. During that time period, county roads will have a 10-ton weight limit.
Approved most of their 2020 appointments. They will make their final appointments, for the Dubois County Park Board and Jasper Planning Commission, at their Jan. 6 meeting. A complete listing of commissioners and county appointments will run at a later date.
Heard that holiday hours have been set for the county’s eight sanitation sites. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the sites will be open from 8 a.m. to noon. On Christmas and New Year’s Day, the sites will be closed.

More on