COLUMBIA — Even rocks are feeling the economic crunch.
“It’s just like anything else today,” said Chip Estabrooks, maintenance operations manager for the department.
Public Works uses rock to maintain more than 500 miles of gravel roads in the county, purchasing crushed stone and chip seal products from local quarries. Rock use increases during the spring and fall with rain, freeze and frost conditions.
In 2008, the department had a projected budget of $1.33 million for rock alone.
“We should be close to the same (for 2009), only a little higher after anticipating the higher prices,” Estabrooks said.
The key variables in rock prices are the costs of transportation and production.
Several processes are used in rock production, including explosives, crushing and screening, he said. All the processes require high amounts of energy, along with heavy equipment, which proves costly year after year.
The typical price increase per year is around 5 percent, so Estabrooks said the department did expect an increase this year.
“We anticipated a 6 to 8 percent increase, but not 10,” he said.
Sales tax revenue, which funds the department, is not expected to cover all increased costs.
"The expectation for 2009 is that revenue will be flat, and if that is true, any kind of increase will be a problem,” said Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ken Pearson.
Pearson said the county will look for ways to make up for the increased cost of rock.
“We will identify those areas where we could trim or reduce costs,” he said.
That might include delaying purchases of new equipment and finding ways to be more efficient.
Traffic and terrain play a role in the amount of attention needed for county roads. Crews typically know where those problem areas are and plan accordingly.
Estabrooks said the department will continue to purchase rock and provide maintenance services.
“This time of the year, we are more reactive than anything due to changing weather conditions,” he said.