Montezuma Road won’t impact Summit County summer road projects
Repair cost estimates for Montezuma Road are approaching the $2 million mark, but the emergency likely will not affect an aggressive county road repair schedule already approved for this summer.
During the Tuesday, June 10, Summit Board of County Commissioners workshop, assistant county manager Thad Noll said road workers have been turning 12- to 13-hour days since last week when high water washed out a 1.5-mile section of Montezuma Road. Although Summit County could apply for state or federal aid, Noll said the county should track its expenses regardless of whether it receives reimbursement.
“If there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s that people are getting the chance to do what they do,” Noll said. “We’re getting the opportunity to implement our incident management policies in real time.”
Noll also noted that there have been no reported injuries among county employees and Montezuma residents since the road washed out last week.
But County Commissioner Thomas Davidson wanted to know what a potential $2 million price tag would do to the 2014 road budget and the county’s general fund, overall.
County finance director Marty Ferris said the road department receives much of its annual funding from a portion of the 12.789 voter-approved mill levy. Because it is too late in the year to adjust the mill, Ferris said, the cost of the Montezuma Road emergency would likely come out of the more fluid general fund reserves.
According to county policy, officials must maintain at least a three-month operating reserve in the general fund. The county bases its policy on average operating expenses, which equate to about $6.5 million for three months.
The county ended 2013 with a general fund balance of $16 million, $12.6 million of which is unassigned, and which Ferris said provides the county with a lot of “maneuverability” to address emergencies like Montezuma Road, while maintaining a three-month reserve.
Davidson also asked whether the estimated cost to repair Montezuma Road would impact the summer road maintenance schedule.
In April, the commission approved about $1.5 million in road maintenance projects. The road department’s maintenance budget was $1.1 million for 2014. At the time the projects were approved, county officials discussed making up the $400,000 difference with a transfer from the general fund.
As of Tuesday, the county’s elected officials and staffers agreed the maintenance plan should move forward unchanged.
“We’ve done a really good job over the last several years of saving money,” Davidson said. “This is why we build up a general fund reserve, so we can use those funds and not have to tell people in Keystone you’re road project is now delayed because of what happened in Montezuma.”
The county already is beginning to receive bids for its summer road projects, Noll said, and so far they are coming in a little lower than expected. To date, the county has received bids for Soda Ridge and Montezuma roads in Keystone. The section of Montezuma does not include the washout area, but focuses on the curved section at the bottom of the road near U.S. Highway 6. The county also has received bids for a number of smaller paving and patching projects, Noll said.
Interestingly, Noll said, total road maintenance costs could come in about $200,000 lower than the $1.5 million estimate, as the culvert that failed at Peru Creek was undersized and slated for replacement this summer anyway. Noll said that cost now would likely be lumped in with the total cost to repair the washed-out area of Montezuma Road.
Despite having the funds to move forward, county manager Gary Martinez recommended the county hold off on accepting the construction bids until after the end of flood season, if possible. Martinez said Denver Water announced that inflows into Dillon Reservoir have slowed in recent days, prompting officials Tuesday to drop outflows to 1,400 cubic feet per second from 1,700 cfs. Inflows peaked on May 30 at 2,777 cfs, said Travis Thompson, senior media coordinator for Denver Water.
“As long as there is not another flooding incident, then I think we would move ahead with everything on our plan,” Martinez said. “Regardless of what Denver Water is doing with the flows, there’s still a lot of snowpack out there and if we have a significant rain event, we could have another Montezuma Road-type emergency.”
Summit County Emergency Management director Joel Cochran also attended Tuesday’s workshop to provide an update on progress to restore vehicle access to Montezuma residents. He presented photos of county workers moving a two-piece, 15,000-pound bridge into place over the washout area last weekend. The bridge could be opened to vehicle traffic sometime this week, Cochran said.
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