Clay engineer details 2022 totals in annual report

Clay County Commission

Dan Haglund

Clay County Highway Department Engineer Justin Sorum detailed a 2022 year-in-review update for the Clay County Commission on Tuesday.

In his report, Sorum states there are currently 21 full-time employees, which provide maintenance on all county gravel roads within 27 townships. The maintenance duties include snowplowing, ditch mowing, culvert replacement and upkeep, patching, crack filling and adding gravel. There are nearly 750 miles of road maintenance.

In the county shop, there is a foreman and a diesel mechanic, who are in charge of 12 motor graders, 13 tandem stucks, five tractors, two payloaders and 25 pickups/SUVs. 

Sorum says there is a lot of welding and fabrication in-house, repairing the equipment among the fleet. 

According to Sorum, the only job opening on the highway department is the assistant county engineer, which has been vacant since June of last year. 

On the engineering side, there are five technicians and between two and four summer interns, which handles all the construction inspection, access and utility permits, plan design and the inspections of 335 bridges. 

In administration, there are two registered engineers, a highway accountant, and two front-office staff. This group deals with moving permits, dust control, annual permits, county graveling, road closures and news flashes for the media. Sorum said they also field a lot of phone calls during severe weather events.

The sign department comprises a full-time foreman and a part-time summer employee, charged with the maintenance of 8,329 signs, township sign help on request, sign management software to ensure state specification compliance, traffic control for pavement testing, portable message boards for construction, community events or miscellaneous projects, mailbox repair and road closures. Sorum said there were approximately 70 mailboxes needing repair at different times, mainly from plowed snow.

Sorum said if residents are willing to purchase swing-away mailboxes, the county will install them at no cost. 

The roadway network includes county state-aide roads, funded by gas and wheelage taxes, comprise 404 miles, 272 of which are paved. The network also includes 337 miles of county roads, only 16 of which are paved. Any construction on these, Sorum says, is funded by local dollars.

Maintenance totals from 2022 include 2,955 hours of snow removal, 4,549 hours of gravel road blading, $517,082 for fuel costs between the motor graders and tandem trucks, 32 miles of reclaimed road shoulders, more than 13 miles of pavement crack filling, and the CDL licensing program. One employee has completed the CDL program and another one is in the process of completing it, Sorum said.

On the county construction side, more than 22.5 miles of overlays were completed, three townships bridge designs were completed, preliminary surveys for this year’s construction docket were set, and 111 bridge inspections done. Two newly certified bridge inspectors. including Sorum himself, have also been added in the county. There are also designs in the works for the 2023-24 construction projects, and estimates being made in a five-year plan overhaul.

For new construction, new buildings were added in Comstock and Georgetown, and a new one is in the works for Ulen this summer. A new cold storage building will be completed in a second try after the new construction trusses collapsed during a wind storm last fall. 

The footings for a new salt tent were poured last fall, with the tent portion slated to be completed this spring. 

The state aid construction allotment for 2023 will be down slightly from last year, from $4.27 million to $4.13 million.

Sorum laid out the plans for this year, including the North Broadway bridge removal. the Clay State Aid Highway (CSAH) 18 mill and overlay, as well as for CSAH 26. There will also be GPS equipment added to all maintenance vehicles for snow events. 

“It’s important how necessary it is to give our departments the technology they need,” said Clay County Commission David Ebinger, Dist. 5. 

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