Pennies add up for Supervisors

Staff Writer

Twenty-five cents may not seem like much, but when people are shopping by the ton, it can make a big difference. Clay County supervisors certainly hope so.

Thursday, they awarded annual bids for everything from pea gravel and fill dirt to grader blades and metal pipe. In some cases, prices were slightly lower for 2018 over current prices for the most-frequently purchased items.

"In this day and time, you don't expect prices to be down. You just expect things to be a little higher. Some were, but some of the things we buy a lot of were lower. As much as we buy, that can add up," District 3 Supervisor R.B. Davis noted.

"We always try to stretch every dollar as far as we can but with prices down a little, it means we may be able to do a little more work on our roads and bridges. It's not a whole lot more, but every little bit makes a difference," added District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus.

Supervisors have between $300,000 and $350,000 -- depending on the tax base in each district -- available each year for road and bridge maintenance and related expenses under the county's "beat system," which has each supervisor responsible for road work in his district.

Each year the county takes bids on frequently used supplies. Some items, like gravel and limestone, run into the thousands of dollars a year. The same for plastic and metal pipe. Unlike larger counties like Lowndes which is on the "unit system" with a centralized road department, Clay supervisors don't use much hot-mix asphalt. But if they do after Jan. 1 when the new prices kick in, they'll save $4 a ton because the price of oil -- a key ingredient in asphalt -- has remained low.

Limestone, which is a big item on the county's purchase list, is down 25 cents to 35 cents a ton, depending on the size rock, from low-bidder Warren Paving, which stocks stone at the Tom Soya port site, saving the county even more in delivery costs.

If a supervisor buys 1,000 tons of #7 limestone, he saves $250 this year over last year. That allows the purchase of another 11 tons, enough to stretch out a little more road or culvert work. For #57 limestone, the savings on 1,000 tons would be $350, allowing another 15 tons.

Prices for cold-mix and materials for "chipping and sealing" roads, a popular method of covering connector streets, also were down.

Combined, those things make a difference.

"You put the two together, more limestone or gravel available and more sealer available, that means a little more road you've repaired. It's hard to say how much more because it depends on the road and the job but anytime your prices are lower, it helps you,"

Lowndes County Road Manager Ronnie Burns said. Basic sand prices are down, but prices for oversize gravel, clay gravel and wash gravel are slightly higher. Pipe prices are mixed, depending on size.

"All things considered, we've got to be pleased with these prices. I was looking at them thinking we've gotten some good prices. Even with the things that are higher, we didn't see any big increases. That's good for us and good for taxpayers. People don't think about how important this process we go through is but when they call about their road, it all starts right here," Lummus explained.