County ponders potholes, airport

Allen County Commissioners are considering the purchase of a pothole patching machine and equipment to address needs. A consulting firm also is expected to be in town to discuss the airport improvement project.



May 26, 2021 - 10:09 AM

Drone photos were recently shot as part of the utilities expansion study at the Allen County Regional Airport. Courtesy photo

Dodging potholes may soon be eliminated as a spring sport.

Allen County public works director Mitch Garner updated commissioners Tuesday on new patchwork technology.

Garner was in Salina on Monday for a demonstration on pothole patching equipment the county might purchase. 

Garner suggested the county also purchase a tank for oil storage allowing local crews to keep and heat oil not only for the itself but also alrea cities. 

Public works director Mitch Garner talks with Allen County commissioners about purchasing a pothole patching machine and heated oil storage tanks.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Garner said he thought a 3,000 gallon tank should work for Allen County alone, but suggested a 6,000 gallon tank might be best if there were plans to share. (Costs for owning tanks are also much lower than renting them, e.g., $22,000 per month.)

“To me, it makes sense that we share,” said commissioner David Lee, who pointed to a similar machine operated by the city of Humboldt.

Garner said the pothole patcher costs about $250,000, but would vary depending on model.

The machine should also be able to operate in almost all conditions, he added, since the oil can be heated to around 150 degrees.

“You can use it all year-round,” Garner said.

Garner noted he had watched a demonstration of two different pothole patching machines, one operated by a single person and one operated by two people.

“I think the single-person machine is probably going to work for us,” he said. “It holds about five cubic yards, almost four tons, of asphalt, and about 80 gallons of oil.”

“It also has a jackhammer, where you can lift the pothole out and square it,” Garner added. “That way, the patching material will stay in there better.”

The Allen County courthouse and courthouse clock.Photo by Trevor Hoag

In response to a question from commissioner Bruce Symes, Garner also noted that the patches made by the proposed machine would last from three to five years.

The only hitch, Garner said, is that “this company, they’re 12 months out. And that’s just to get the chassis.”

Hence, he expected that the wait-time on obtaining the patcher could be over a year given that the company “is so far behind.”

In the meantime, Garner said he planned to meet with another company in order to possibly speed up the process.

Commissioners encouraged his expediency, especially as commissioner Symes noted that “I could see this being used a lot, at least initially.”

Garner likewise added that, due to continuous rains, crews had mostly been focused on fixing washouts. They have also been picking up brush and trimming trees.

Jonathon Goering, Thrive Allen County economic development director, said BG Consultants would be in town at 9 a.m. on June 7 to meet in-person for the first time about the airport utilities expansion study.

He also mentioned meeting with Evergy’s economic development team over Zoom, where they talked about “certified sites,” those locations determined as already prepped for development by the Kansas Department of Commerce.

Goering said Evergy suggested Allen County would benefit from conducting a labor study, specifically one that would identify strengths and weaknesses in the local labor force, catalog existing and potential businesses, as well as gathering data on where local workers live or from where they are commuting.

Atlas Community Studios is planning to provide some labor information to the county via its work on housing, but Goering said the study being suggested was more extensive.

In other news, commissioners gave the green light to residents who requested use of the courthouse bandstand as part of the “Race Across America” biking event.

A team of cyclists is expected to pass through the area on June 21 or 22.

“Any chance to show off the largest square in America is a good opportunity,” said commissioner Symes.

Commissioners signed a memorandum of agreement for mutual aid between Allen County emergency communications and the Coffey County sheriff’s department.

Commissioner Lee said he’d begun looking into RFPs and the bidding process to build local communication towers.

Allen County has received $2,204,533 via the American Rescue Plan Act and has the next three- and-a-half to four years to spend it, said clerk Sherrie Riebel.

“We only got half of it. We’ll get the other half next year,” she added.

As for how the money will be spent, and potential spending restrictions, “I really think there will be more information coming,” said Symes.

For now, “just keep it in the bank, and take our time. There really isn’t any big rush,” he added.

Commissioner Jerry Daniels said one item he’d like to purchase is security/COVID safety materials for the Clerk’s and Treasurer’s offices, such as plexiglass “sneeze guards,” as they have not yet been outfitted.

“If it works for a salad bar, it should work for people,” joked commissioner Lee.