County will hike asphalt price to help cover losses

Move intended to make department self-sustaining
Ozaukee Press staff

In an effort to make the Ozaukee County Highway Department self-sustaining and less reliant on taxpayers, the county will increase what it charges three towns for road repairs and maintenance.

In each of the last two years, the county Highway Department was supported with about $131,498 from the tax levy. In 2016, levy support totaled $49,386 and $199,771 in 2015.

Even so, each of the last five years, the department has operated at a loss, with 2018’s loss the highest at $800,060.

“It’s not anything that rises to the red-alarm level,” county Administrator Jason Dzwinel told supervisors on the Public Works Committee last month. “The internal service fund (of the Highway Department) is intended to operate as a business, to break even or even make a little money. But it has been operating at a loss for the past five years.

“The goal is to do work so that we’re not covering out losses from the levy,” Dzwinel said. 

County auditors told supervisors the problem lies in the Guaranteed Work Partnership, or GWP, which gives discounts to three townships  — Belgium, Fredonia and Grafton — for work the county performs on their roads.

They also singled out for revision what the county charges for its hot mix asphalt and gravel.

The County Board created the GWP in 2013. The advantage of the program to the county is that it guarantees a level of work year-round so that snowplow drivers don’t have to be hired just to work in the winter.

For the towns, the program gives them a 10% discount on winter road maintenance and a 70% discount on general maintenance.

Those discounts are meant to roughly equal the level of tax levy support the Highway Department receives.

Prior to the program, the county provided a fixed dollar amount to five municipalities.

The towns also receive an “equipment storage credit,” which totaled $29,576 last year.

A 10-year analysis showed that the average rate charged for asphalt was $46.95 per ton, more than the average cost of $45.11 per ton. But in 2018, the county charged $45.50 while the cost was 30 cents more at $45.80.

For gravel, the 10-year average rate was $5.53 while the average cost was $5.84. In 2018, the rate charged was $5.50 and the cost was $5.99. 

Earlier this year, the county increased the rate for gravel to $6.25 and hot mix to $50 but those prices were increased last month to $6.50 and $52, respectively, due to some 2018 revenue shortfalls, County Public Works Director Jon Edgren said.

The three towns annually use roughly 7,000 tons of asphalt and 3,000 tons of gravel, so the increase will total about $15,000, Edgren said.

The larger question, however, is whether the county should rethink its GWP policy and the long-term future of its asphalt and gravel operations.

“The whole program should be looked at,” Supr. Dan Becker said.

“It is a partnership. We should sit down and talk with the towns,” Dzwinel said.

Dzwinel said the county will be “facing a major discussion in the next five to seven years because we’re going to run out of gravel and our hot mix plant will reach its end of life.”

Many counties operate gravel pits, but Edgren said Ozaukee is one of only 15 of the state’s 72 counties that operates a hot mix plant, which is located in the Town of Saukville.

County gravel and asphalt can only be sold to other government entities, Edgren said. The majority of the asphalt produced by the county’s asphalt plant is used for county projects with the rest going to the towns and some for schools or other municipalities.

If Ozaukee was to shut down its gravel and asphalt operations, the county and towns would likely have to go to the private sector to meet its needs. There are no private suppliers in the county but there are in Washington and Sheboygan counties, Edgren said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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