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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Public works head projects nearly 11.7% budget increase for 2025

Updated: 8 minutes ago

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – Linn County Public Works Director Shaun West presented the road and bridge budget to the Linn County Commissioners, Jim Johnson and Danny McCullough, on Monday, July 8. Commissioner Jason Hightower was absent from the meeting. 

The budget presentation covered the budget numbers, department goals and other concerns. However, after a lengthy  discussion commissioners decided not to give the budget preliminary approval until Hightower was present. 

West said that payroll was up because of countywide increases, the 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) and merit increase pay that was being added to department  budgets instead of payroll having its own separate budget like it has been in the past. The payroll budget went up $72,100 to more than $1.27 million.

He reported that the contractual line item was staying the same at $304,500. This includes engineering fees, rentals, insurance, utilities, striping and other contracts.

He said that commodity line item was up $62,500 to $2.7 million because of storm damage, including rock loss and culvert replacement. He also told commissioners that it was difficult to predict the differences in this budget with the Pleasanton shop reopening. He said that there would be more information to go by next year.

According to West, the capital outlay line item was down $80,000. He said that having the knowledge that a large portion of this money is transferred to the special equipment fund which has not been spent to its projections over the last two years. 

He said that after the county has a better understanding of what disaster costs and reimbursements look like the county will be able to project future needs for this fund.

West said that large projects for 2025 will be the Hell’s Bend bridge, the Centerville project on 1350 Road, the 900 Road bridge repair, and repair of the north and south shop buildings. 

The total budget for road and bridge of almost $4.68 million was up slightly more than $54,600, or nearly 11.7%, over last year’s budget. He explained that last year $51,000 had been cut from the budget. He explained that over the last five years the budget was only fluctuating about $5,000 from what the budget was three years ago.

McCullough asked if West had the total rock budget for last year and what it will be this year.

West told him he would have to get the past and current numbers. He also said the projection for 2025 would be difficult estimate with all the storm damage this year. 

I mean they rated our storm damage and when they stopped the rating it was over several million dollars. How much of that is rock and how much of that is fuel and man hours and to break that out at this point is impossible, said West. 

After his presentation, the commissioners were silent and then McCullough went into concerns about how could he make a decision on the budget from the information that he had.

“I get that it is all estimate, but I can’t put together a budget if I don’t know all the details on everything. I mean even estimated numbers,” said McCullough. “All I’m trying to do on these budgets, I’m not trying to make peoples lives hard.

“I am trying to give transparency between you and all of us, and there’s not the disconnection. There’s not the tension between everybody, and I just don’t. I’m just not getting what I want in the budgets. I don’t know how to explain it anymore.”

West explained that a lot of the information that McCullough was asking for was what he was giving in his weekly reports. He said it would be difficult to build a 30 minute report at budget time with all of that information.

“Maybe I’m asking for too much. I don’t know. It seems like its causing a lot of tension between a lot of departments and myself,” said McCullough. “I don’t understand how I’m supposed to make a good decision based on what I am given every single day. And I’m not just talking about your budget, so don’t take it that wrong.”

County Clerk David Lamb attempted to clarify some information for McCullough, “I don’t know where you are going here, but there is some line item detail on some of the jpegs that are in the budget folder too, if that’s what you are looking for. It breaks down how much is surface material, how much is cover.”

McCullough said he was trying to study the information on his laptop screen.

“I can print those pages out if you want to look at them,” said Lamb.

McCullough continued about not getting the information he needed. 

“It’s kind of like the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) that we have for the wildlife corridor up there. (We) never heard that in five years that I’ve been here until this year when there was an issue and we had to talk about it. I don’t understand how I am supposed to make a good decision,” said McCullough.

“Look at the ones we have jumped into. The juvenile (detention center), the landfill, TriKo. Once we start getting involved into it we realize how much we’ve been overpaying and getting screwed,” said McCullough.

Johnson jumped in and asked questions about the chip-and-seal process that Anderson County uses. Discussion was held on that and ditches for a while.

Asphalt foreman Tod Moeller told Johnson that for Linn County to do a mile of asphalt it would be $22,500. He said that the person he talked with at Anderson County said that it cost them $30,000 to $35,000 to do it with the material they were using.

“I take a lot of phone calls,” McCullough said. “I don’t have time. I make $29,000 a year as a commissioner. I have a life beyond the commission. That’s why I’m not running again. I put in a lot of time and effort to understand everything.”

McCullough and Johnson decided to wait until Hightower returned to tentatively approve the Road and Bridge Department budget.

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