Mending the county#039;s roads

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2006

Patching potholes just got easier.

The Butler County Road Department recently purchased a 2001 Roscoe RA-300 pothole patcher for $50,000. The new equipment, said engineer Dennis McCall, will save the county approximately $45,000 in additional labor and fuel costs.

The patcher was purchased from Tallapoosa County. A new pothole patcher would have cost the county in the neighborhood of $150,000, said McCall.

&#8220This is big for us,” said Jesse McWilliams, chairman of the Butler County Commission. &#8220We don't have the funding to re-pave all of our roads, but this allows us to address the problem of repairing these roads.”

Previously, patching potholes was a two to three man operation, according to McCall. The new RA-300 allows a worker to sit inside the cab of the truck, direct a boom over a work area, and spray asphalt into the pothole. McCall said the truck would work in conjunction with the 12,000-gallon asphalt storage tank recently constructed at the road department's headquarters on Pettibone Rd.

McCall said the road department is responsible for maintenance on 550 miles of paved roads inside the county.

The pothole patcher is the county's way of addressing a problem that has plagued Alabama's rural roadways since the 1970s, said McCall, when the legislature changed the way gasoline tax was allocated.

Many of Butler County's roads, said McCall, were constructed in the 1950s and early 1960s.

&#8220At that time, the gasoline tax was distributed equally among the counties,” he said. &#8220In the 70s, it became based on population. Since that point our revenue has stayed flat. What the county commission is facing is a huge problem because they have the responsibility of maintaining these roads with a flat line of revenue.”

Butler County receives $811,809 into its gasoline fund for roads and additional $703,017 earmarked in a 3R-fund for restructuring and re-surfacing.

With the rising cost of fuels and materials, McWilliams said the county is not &#8220getting in” what it is paying out.

McCall said with funding strapped for new road construction or paving, the engineer's department in Butler County has become focused more on upkeep.

&#8220It's got to the point where we're having to find unique ways to stretch the dollar,” he said. &#8220We have to find more efficient ways to operate. We don't have the financing for new roads, so we're trying to maintain. The life of a road is 50 years and we're coming up on that.”