Did You Know?

Land Surveys in the Northwest Territory

Huron County and Erie County, being the "Fire Lands," that western most part of the Western Reserve, which was land set aside by the Congress to be given to those citizens of Connecticut, who had their homes burned by the British in the Revolutionary War. The United States Continental Congress was broke after the war, but had this publicly owned land that was called the Northwest Territory, constituting now what is Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.

It was in this area, that the first survey of public land was done in laying out the land in Townships that were 5 miles square, with 640-acre sections and at the time it was extremely experimental. In the rest of the Northwest Territory, which is Northwest Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, the townships are laid out in 6 miles square grids, which is the pattern of the method of surveying in the rest of the country, clear across to the Pacific coast, the same method was used after being developed here in Ohio.

The County Engineer’s Office is the keeper of these records and the surveys done at that time.

Huron County Engineer Receives no Administrative Funding

The Huron County Engineer's Office is one of the few Engineer's Offices in the state of Ohio, who receives no funding from the General Fund of the County. Although the Ohio Revised Code is specific in addressing that the General Fund provide funding for the administrative functions of the Engineer's Office, historically the Commissioners have not done so.

Losing on Both Side of the Market

Losing on Both Sides of the Market
By Fereidoun Shokouhi, P.E., P.S.
Champaign County Engineer

Increases in the price of our needed products and reduction on revenue - this is exactly the predicament facing our office. The majority of funds we receive for maintenance and upkeep of our infrastructure are from tax on fuel. Contrary to what the majority of people think, our revenue is actually based on a fixed amount per gallon purchased, rather than a percentage of what they pay for fuel at the pump. Therefore, in Ohio, what is paid for fuel tax by users per gallon remains the same whether the cost of fuel increases or decreases. Everyone has experienced the significant fuel cost increase the last several years. As the price increases, consumption decreases and subsequently, our revenue shrink. This is one side of the market that we are faced with.

On the other side of the market, our cost of highway construction, specifically material prices, have increased dramatically and have far exceeded past trends. If this new trend continues, it will affect our projects’ five, ten, and fifteen years pipe lines. In an attempt to respond to this quandary, we are planning to time our requests for bids to hit the material costs outside the demand season, i.e., bidding for salt in summer, and asphalt in winter. We will adjust project scopes to expected project costs, and cancel projects where material cost has made it to be too expensive. We will try to solicit more bids for projects and advertise for bids for current and future opportunities to a broader base.

MATERIAL 2003 2004 2005 2006 % INCREASE
Hot Mix Asphalt ( per ton) $31.25 $31.10 $33.50 $44.00 40.80
per Roadway Striping (lin.ft of centerline) $0.04 $0.03 $0.04 $0.06 75.71
Concrete Pre-stressed Structure Elements (per ton) $25.39 $34.00 $34.00 $39.96 57.38
Precast Concrete Box Culvert (per sq.ft) $132.24 $136.51 $145.10 $160.68 21.51
Emulsion Asphalt ( per gallon) $0.55 $0.55 $0.63 $0.97 77.04
#8 Aggregate per ton $4.45 $4.45 $4.60 $4.85 8.99
Sign Post ( per lb.) $0.35 $0.46 $0.52 $0.59 68.60

The level of increases in the given chart demonstrates material cost escalation has been eroding our funds buying power. This year alone we are anticipating the material cost offset our budget by as much as $ 700,000. If this cost trends continue to rise as in recent years, and material costs do not stabilize, we will have to revamp our operation and our service delivery. As a community, we have spent millions of dollars over time to have what we have today. We are given the responsibility of sustaining and improving upon this given investment. We are hoping for both an economy and funds that are sufficient to meet demands, and protect the huge and hard earned capital that has been invested in our essential infrastructure.

As we are led into an uncertain future about our ability to financially provide the necessary services to our citizens, we will have to assess our battles daily. We are confident that with the support of our citizens, the effective participation of our workforce, and the right planning, we will win. For the sake of our infrastructure investment, we are left with no other choice but to overcome the calamities of constant increases in the cost of compliance with new regulations, social issues related to highway construction and the unpredictability of the economy and market.

Who Pays, The Consumer, The Taxpayer, or Both?

Who Pays, the Consumer, the Taxpayer, or Both?
Thinking Globally to hold the line on Costs

By Joseph B. Kovach, P.E., P.S.
Huron County Engineer

In these times of ever upward price spiking in petro-based products and the pass-along increase of price in everything else we use, how do we as first as Public Servants, and second as Engineers, cope with this, for this is a condition that will be with us permanently, not temporarily?

We all know that the revenue stream from which we operate with, is based on a fixed amount of “cents” per gallon of fuel sold in our state, county, etc. This is a concern as the price of fuel accelerates; the amount of sales tax revenue from it stays the same. But as Public Servants, and being aware of the impact of the increase of energy prices on our constituents, not only at the gas pump, but also in heating their homes, and in the other products needed by them affected by the pass-along increase affected by energy prices, what can we do to hold the line on costs as Engineers? Do we have to start thinking, globally?

All of us as County Engineers are used to planning for projects that might be five to ten years out in the future. Since energy is a commodity and subject to the fluctuation of that market, weather conditions, global conditions and the health of the leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere, we have to start thinking in those terms. In the private sector, it is common, as one of our colleagues suggested in a recent article, to buy or purchase products when they are “off season.” But with the energy market being in constant state of flux, can we be sure that there will be an “off season” for anything? Maybe what we should consider is something not new, which has been used with salt and aggregate purchases, group buying. This kind of purchasing could significantly lower the cost of construction for us. If we as a combine, the CEAO, bid for asphalt, for example, in significant amounts, we could then bid the projects with us supplying the main ingredient, essentially we would be hiring the services of the private contractors, their equipment, and personnel to apply the material that we own. Since we use similar components in our projects, it makes sense to spread this to concrete pipe, plastic pipe, sign posts, and so on.

What we have to do is start thinking beyond the boundaries of our counties, the state and the nation, for it is what is happening in the global market place that affects what happens here in County Seat, Ohio.

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