The Union County Engineer's Office had revenues of $6,439,965 and expenses of $6,420,625 in 2012, according to a report recently released by the department; however, county Engineer Jeff Stauch said the economic climate remains his department's biggest challenge moving forward.
"The primary source of the funding for our county's roads and bridges are derived from 'user fees' and 'user taxes' -- that is, license plate fees and the gas tax," he said. "These revenues generally have remained flat, as we've seen slight increases in plate fees but consistent decreases year-to-year in the gas tax receipts."
He credited Union County residents for renewing a quarter-percent sales tax for his department in helping to keep revenue ahead of expenses.
The engineer's office also leveraged projects with more than $2.15 million in federal and state grants.
"Our biggest concern is the upward trend of construction material costs, which continued in 2012, outpacing other types of inflation across our region," Stauch said. "Our chip-seal program was affected by an increase of 13 percent in the cost of liquid asphalt and a 10-percent increase in the cost of stone."
Nevertheless, the department was able to resurface 9.76 miles of county roads last year, including Jerome Road (3.91 miles); Hoskins Road (1.91 miles); Raymond Road (2.8 miles); and Warner Road (1.14 miles).
"No matter what's happening to our revenues, we have a mission to make Union County roads as safe as they can possibly be," Stauch said.
He pointed to a project at the intersection of Wheeler-Green and Reed roads that he said dramatically improved visibility in the neighborhood.
"The residents were inconvenienced for a couple of weeks while we were working on the project," Stauch said. "But we've heard from several homeowners since we finished there that it is so much safer. That's satisfying."
Work also was completed on a $1,179,329 construction project to widen and resurface Industrial Parkway.
With an eye toward safety, he said his office also spent $65,971 on its pavement marking program.
"It may seem like the little things, and people would only notice if they weren't there," Stauch said. "But edge lines, center lines, railroad crossing signs are all very important."
Stauch said economic realities and uncertain funding from the state and federal governments make his job a "juggling act."
"Safety is our No. 1 concern," he said. "But we have to make difficult decisions all the time. We can't simply ignore a situation because the repair might become even more costly down the line."
The engineer's annual report is available online at http://w2.co.union.oh.us/Engineer/engineer.html.