COLUMBIA — The high price of oil is not only affecting the cost of filling up your gas tank but the upkeep of roads as well.
Beginning in September, because of the uncertain nature of the price of oil used in asphalt, both the city of Columbia and Boone County began to take bids from construction companies for asphalt supply on a month-to-month basis rather than quarterly.
From July through September, both governments paid $45.20 a ton; for October, they paid $59 a ton.
These bids apply to repairs and patching of roads but not for repaving entire roads.
“We have to project in 2008 for 2009, and taking bids on a monthly basis makes budgeting somewhat of a guessing game. We have to try and predict what the market will do,” said Chip Estabrooks of the Boone County Public Works Department. “We’ll have a fixed number of dollars, so if (the) price goes up, it could impact the amount of repairs we could make.”
The portion of asphalt that has caused the prices to rise is the oil used in it. Known as bitumen, it is a heavy, tar-like substance made from decomposed organic materials.
The shorter-term bidding came out of a meeting the city and county had with APAC and Christensen Construction Company in which the firms said they would be unable to guarantee a price for more then a month in advance.
“It allows for a competitive situation between vendors and gives the city the best price in the current market situation,” said Marilyn Starke , purchasing agent for the city.
Rob Christensen, owner of Christensen Construction, said the situation has caused instability for his business.
“In the old days, you bought material and you made an agreement with the oil companies for the long term. Now, I don’t know the price that I pay for my raw materials more then 30 days out,” Christensen said.
Christensen said that his business was down slightly this year but was unsure if the cause was the high price of oil or the economy.
“One positive is it’s increased the use of recycled materials in asphalt,” Christensen said.