The financial outlook for the multifaceted County Highway Department looks pretty much unchanged for 2018, Superintendent Tim Hens told members of the County Legislature on Monday.
Hens presented a department review during the Public Service Committee meeting.
"We're proposing a fairly flat budget and general fund contribution to County Highway," Hens said. "It is actually exactly the same as it was in 2017."
After two winters of mild weather, the county hasn't used much salt recently and with low oil prices the past few years, the cost of asphalt has remained low. Even with hurricane Harvey that hit Houston, causing a bump in fuel prices, Hens expects costs to return to their pre-Harvey level before long.
"I don't expect oil and gas to really fluctuate too much," Hens said.
A pressure point however is the county's bridges and culverts.
The county has 100 bridges eligible for federal aid. The typical lifespan of a bridge is 50 to 75 years.
"About half of our Federal bridges are what are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete," Hens said.
Ideal, the county should replace two bridges with the help of federal aid every year. For the past decade, the average has been one bridge every two years.
"It's a pretty big deal for us to not get federal aid," Hens said.
As for culverts -- which Hens defined as anything with a span of five to 20 feet -- there are 278 in the county.
Over the past two years, nine of the 30 most in need of replacement have been replaced.
A contract has been awarded to two concrete companies for castings for culvert pipes, so there are 10 under construction now.
For roads, Hens said aid will assist in the reconstruction of Pratt Road and Searles Road next summer.
County Highway and several local town highway departments are working together under a shared-services agreement this week on South Main Street Road, Town of Batavia.
Hens also said when roads are getting repaved, or overlayed, the surface is milled as well as the shoulder and the millings are then ground up so they can be recycled for bedding on the shoulder and expanded shoulders. The roads are being widened by four feet on the shoulders.
"We're winding up with 30-foot roads, which is safer for drivers, is safer for kids on bikes, and people walking. It's a pretty big improvement. It's going to take a long time to get through all the roads, but it will be a big benefit to the county when we're all done."
The project started three years ago.
As for parks, Shannon Morley has been doing a great job as the environmental educator at the interpretative center on the County Park & Forest in East Bethany, Hens said.
Reservations have held steady for use of pavilions at the parks, though crews had quite a bit of work after the March windstorm repairing damaged pavilions, as well as cleaning up trails in the County Park.
With funding being cut off for the Americorps program, the county won't benefit from those helpers at the County Park this year, Hens said, but efforts are underway to work with another program, the state's Student Conservation Program. That's more expensive but the folks with ACORN have raised money to help cover the cost.
It may also be possible to get volunteers from SUNY Brockport.
Hens said the first year of the new ice rink at DeWitt Recreation Area went well, but he thinks for the kids to get the most out of it, it needs to stay open later. When kids get out of school at three or four, and it gets dark at 5:30 p.m., there isn't much time for them to skate. Hens said he is looking into providing some lighting so they can skate longer into the evening.
The biggest news out at the County Airport is a plan to resurface the runway in 2019.
The current runway is 40 years old, Hens said.
The airport continues to be a moneymaker for the county, even with less travel, meaning lower full sales, because of weather this past year.
Typically, the airport has generated $100,000 to $200,000 a year in surplus revenue, but Hens is projecting $65,000 to $75,000 this year.
In the past few years, there have been several improvements to the airport, including a new terminal and new hangars. Since Hens has been highway superintendent, there has been a $27 million investment, most of it federal funds, in the airport.
The investment is paying off, Hens said.
" Our hangars are full and we are way ahead of forecast for what the FAA thinks we should have in terms of based aircraft," Hens said. "In fact, we've got another 8-bay T-hangar waiting in the wings to go up and then another one beyond that, so hoping we can base more aircraft here."