As shown, the revenue generated through the taxes and fees that fund roadway paving and maintenance has stayed flat these past ten years, while the main material cost, asphalt, has increased significantly during the same time period. The information comes from the Putnam County Engineers Office.
As shown, the revenue generated through the taxes and fees that fund roadway paving and maintenance has stayed flat these past ten years, while the main material cost, asphalt, has increased significantly during the same time period. The information comes from the Putnam County Engineers Office.

PUTNAM COUNTY — Following the reorganization vote that saw the elimination of the county’s Administrator position, the three commissioners began the first regular meeting of the new year. At the top of the agenda were two separate proposals that would both increase the county’s license plate renewal fee by $5 each.

Both proposals passed with all three commissioners voting in favor of the increases. Beginning in 2020, license plate renewal fees will increase by $10.

As explained by County Engineer Michael Lenhart during four public hearings (two separate hearings per each proposal), the increase is needed so area townships and his office can keep pace with roadway maintenance, repairs, and improvements - specifically, paving.

“Just the asphalt mix, the asphalt itself has gone up 250 percent since 2005,” Lenhart said. “That’s why we’re basically paving six miles a year. Prior to 2005, we might have been paving 15-20 miles a year.”

“Now, just the asphalt alone is two and a half times more. By the time you add in the labor, equipment rates, fuel costs, we’re almost three times less. You think about six miles, we could be doing 18 [miles per year]. That puts you right into that 15-20 miles per year that we’d really like to be at.”

Lenhart notes that maintenance costs have increased as well. The price of the stone used to chip seal area roads has also increased at a high rate - 213 percent since 2005.

“I’ve been here three and a half years,” Lenhart said. “I’ve had the opportunity now to sit down and evaluate all of the data. It’s kind of an eye opener when you actually see it all. We were paving 18-20 miles per year 10 years ago, and now we’re paving six. It was a red flag warning. That’s why I went to [the commissioners].”

According to Lenhart, the typical price, when all is said and done, for paving just one mile of road in Putnam County ranges in recent years between $100,000 and $115,000. The county has 330 miles of roadway which his office is responsible for maintaining.

The combined increase will all go towards helping the county and townships add to the number of miles paved each year, and the roads receiving maintenance, but it will not, on its own, resolve the ongoing issue of material costs outpacing the revenue streams that go towards road work.

Over the last three years, Lenhart’s office has successfully applied for $6.1 million in grants for roads and bridges. He has also improved efficiency within the county engineer’s office, cutting personnel from 30 people to 26. Either greater efficiencies or further increases in revenue (be they from local, state or federal sources) will likely be needed in the future if the county’s roadways are going to continue to be well maintained.