County uses winter to plan, work on gravel roads

SHERIDAN — For Sheridan County, winter provides a small breather between the busy fall and spring seasons — but just a small one.

County Public Works Director Rod Liesinger said there is less heavy construction through the winter but that small projects, snow removal, equipment maintenance and plenty of planning keeps county staff busy through the colder, snowier months.

“The pace doesn’t change much,” Liesinger said. “It’s a time to plan, but there are also opportunities to keep road and bridge crews busy through the season.”

Liesinger said the fact that a majority of county roads are gravel enables the county to continue working through the winter.

Winter is a good time to haul gravel to roads scheduled for maintenance since the frozen ground minimizes road damage, Liesinger said. The county also uses winter months to blade its roads.

The county is able to clean and replace culverts and cattle guards on gravel roads, activities that are more difficult on paved roads in winter snow and ice. Road and bridge crews also use the slower months to catch up on tree trimming.

“Gravel roads provide more latitude for us in our construction season,” Liesinger said.

The county has 75 vehicles in its fleet and one mechanic to keep them all up and running. The winter season allows a little more time to fix and maintain vehicles that are used in greater numbers in the summer.

Small projects on county property are also given priority in the winter, Liesinger said. For instance, this winter the county will work on paving the exhibit hall parking lot at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds so it is ready for next season’s activities. A drainage project in the south lot at the fairgrounds will be bid in January.

A bank stabilization project along Kooi Road near Dayton has been started and will continue through the winter, Liesinger said.

Prior to December each year, the county does a complete evaluation of all county roads by driving every mile and noting road conditions and any concerns that need to be addressed. That information is used throughout the winter to re-evaluate the county’s capital improvement program and reprioritize which roads to work on in coming spring and summer seasons, if needed.

County engineering staff work on finalizing projects from the previous construction season, making sure payments are final and records are filed. Staff also bid out projects over the winter in order to get the best bids possible and start working as soon as weather allows in the spring.

Each spring, which is the county’s busiest time of year, crews use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program grant funds to apply a magnesium chloride dust suppressant to 200 miles of county road, which is about half of all gravel county roads. In 2014, the county will work on roads in the Story area, including North Piney, Thorne-Rider, Mountain Home, Meade Creek, Loucks and Wagon Box, among others. The county will pave Crooked Street in Story in 2014, as well, Liesinger said.

In 2014, the county plans to chip seal 8 miles of paved roads, including Metz, Swaim, Knode and County Road 80. The county will also use urban systems funds from the Wyoming Department of Transportation to do work on Mydland Road and West Fifth Street. The bridge on Maverick Road is slated to be bid out this winter and replaced next summer, Liesinger said.

“We just flow with the weather,” Liesinger said, removing snow when needed and preparing for the coming spring and summer seasons.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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