The ambitious plan to use inexpensive chip-and-seal paving to put a hard surface on 11 miles of Cape Girardeau County roads failed to draw a single bid from contractors.
The County Road and Bridge Advisory Board met Monday evening to discuss the lack of bids. Proposals were due last Thursday, but neither an advertisement nor direct solicitations to contractors drew any bids.
As a result, the county could fall far short of meeting paving goals for this year using the half-cent sales tax approved by voters in August 2006. And advisory board members don't like it.
The board directed chairman Larry Payne to ask the county commission this Thursday for authority to negotiate a deal directly with a contractor to get some work finished before cold weather. "For our credibility, we need roads paved this fall," Payne said.
The county wanted contractors to price the work on two contracts, one for about 5.6 miles and one for about 5.4 miles. In the contract county commissioners approved for potential bidders, the work was to be completed by Dec. 15.
The county is using hot-mix asphalt for some roads and wants to try the cheaper chip-and-seal method for others. The cheaper method, which uses small rock spread over oil sprayed directly on a rock base to create a hard surface, was designed to test the durability of chip-and-seal as well as control dust.
County commissioner Larry Bock, who monitors the county highway department for the commission, said he's inclined to do a smaller contract using the more expensive asphalt paving.
"I think the date was a problem," Bock said. "It was just too late."
For proper application, the temperature when the oil is applied must be at least 60 degrees. The road surface must be dry, and the layer of rock, or "chip," must be put on top of the oil within five minutes. The likelihood of cooler, wetter weather in October and November put off some contractors. "Our paving crews are pretty well extended through the end of the year," said Glen Graham, regional manager for Apex Paving. "We were concerned about having enough time to get something like that done."
There were also issues with the contracts. The first contract, for work on county roads 419, 439, 440 and 522, included roads that are not ready for paving work. The second, for county roads 273, 316, 380 and 607, included both roads that are not ready for paving and roads where not every landowner has signed an easement to allow the preparation work to proceed.
County highway administrator Scott Bechtold said he wasn't entirely surprised by the lack of bids. Some contractors had called with questions that indicated they weren't ready, he said.
"I got the feeling there was some hesitation there," Bechtold said. "I was disappointed but I wasn't entirely surprised."
The half-cent sales tax approved last year is split between law enforcement, road paving and supporting the operations of the county highway department and the Cape Special Road District. As they sold the proposal last year, commissioners promised that up to 10 miles of road would be paved each year with the money.
The advisory board sought to increase those miles by using the chip-and-seal method.
During Monday night's meeting, about 30 property owners from Hidden Valley along County Road 380 showed up to ask that the board make a variance from county policies to pave the road up to the entrance to their community. Wayne Wiedefeld said the county had promised to pave their road this year and some residents drive six miles extra each day to use paved roads for commuting to Cape Girardeau.
But four holdout landowners haven't signed easements, and the county's paving policy requires all landowners to sign before blacktop is applied.
While the road was part of a chip-and-seal contract, it was included with an understanding the final easements would be obtained. The county commission hired Rob McLeary to help obtain the easements, but illness has prevented him from making much headway, the residents were told.
Payne told the disappointed group that it would undermine the policies if the county moved ahead to pave the road.
At the end of the meeting, however, the board voted to direct Payne to ask the commission to get more help obtaining easements. In addition, the board voted to ask Bechtold to move forward with preparation work on the portion of County Road 380 where all the easements are in order.
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