MORRISON – Whiteside County might have to turn some of its roads into gravel within 5 years, an official warned in spring 2011.
That prediction by then-County Engineer Steve Haring prompted considerable discussion for months in county government. He even began identifying roads that would be converted to gravel.
But that process stopped when Haring resigned in December 2011, soon after he had pleaded guilty to a count of misdemeanor theft for having his workers do private work for him on the county clock.
A few months later, the county hired Russ Renner, Lee County’s former engineer.
In an interview last week, Renner said he didn’t see the need to turn any roads into gravel.
“With the money you have available, you try to stretch the dollars as far as you can,” he said. “You try to put together a maintenance system to extend the life of roads.”
In 2011, Haring said the county didn’t have enough money to resurface its roads. It resurfaced only 2 of its 201 miles each year, he said. At that rate, the county would get to pave each road once every century, but the roads last only 20 to 25 years, Haring said.
Renner said he is not sure how Haring arrived at his calculation, but he said the department now resurfaces about 5 miles a year.
The highway department, he said, is focusing on crack-sealing, which extends the life of pavement. Using a thinner layer of hot mix on roads also can lower costs, he said.
“Everyone is coming up with ways to spend less and extend the life of pavement,” he said. “That’s the big push in our industry.”
As it is, he said, the county puts hot mix on roads about every 30 years.
“That’s a long time,” he said, but gravel is not the solution.
“You’re really dropping down the usability of a road when you go to gravel,” Renner said. “Gravel roads take maintenance. You have to add gravel every year. You lose the rock as you plow.”
After Haring made his prediction in 2011, Lee County Engineer Dave Anderson said he didn’t expect to turn his county’s roads into gravel.
In an interview last week, he said that was still the case. Road funding is not ideal, he said, but the county can make do.
“I don’t see anything going to gravel in the near future,” Anderson said.