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Deteriorating Infrastructure

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Winter Weather Takes A Toll On County's Seal Coat Roads

By Joe Foreman, Editor

Pot holes and patches of crumbling pavement - a sure sign of spring in Mills County - has put crews from the Mills County Secondary Roads Department on the offensive.

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    Crews have been out in full force in recent weeks, doing the usual patching and repairing of potholes created during the harsh winter weather conditions, but this year the damage seems to be more extensive than usual on some of the more highly-traveled seal coat roads.
    “As all seasoned Iowa travelers know, our extreme weather conditions can take a toll on our road system,” Mills County Engineer Kevin Mayberry said. “This spring, we have experienced severe degradation, particularly on our seal coat roads.”
    Mayberry said the Mills County Secondary Roads Department currently maintains over 85 miles of seal coat driving surface, and the upkeep of the oil-packed, black-top roads is putting a strain on the county’s road maintenance budget. Despite the funding concerns, Mayberry said the problem must  be addressed.
    “We have developed plans over this past winter to award two separate contracts that will place an overseal, or a new seal coat wearing surface on half of those seal coat miles in Mills County,” Mayberry said.
    Under the county’s restoration plan, Mayberry said it will be necessary to grind the surface and base course of several miles of roadway.
    “Our plans, which are subject to change due to the dynamic nature of the weather effects to our road base, will include grinding the surface down to the base,” he said.
    The grinding work is scheduled to begin next week, resulting in a temporary change of driving surface on substantial portions of the following roads:
    - 230th Street, from the Glenwood city limits north to Barrus Road (total of 1.5 miles within that stretch of road).
    - Lambert Avenue, from three-quarters of a mile east of the Malvern city limits to 360th Street.
    - 370th Street, from Compass Avenue, 1.5 miles north to Brothers Avenue.
    - 240th Street, for one-half mile from the Glenwood city limits to beyond the Glenwood Golf Course.
    After the grinding work has been completed, the surface of the roads will remain in an aggregate (loose surface) state until the base condition of the road improves enough to accept the seal coat driving surface.
    Mayberry said Mills County isn’t alone in its challenge to maintain seal-coated roads. In fact, Mayberry said, a new term, “de-paving,” has surfaced.
    “De-paving is the process that many entities throughout the country are adopting in order to deal with inadequate budgets and our deteriorating infrastructure,” Mayberry said. “Faced with inadequate funds to repair or replace paved roads and seal coat, municipalities are choosing to turn those roads back to rubble, or an aggregate surface.
    “While it may prove to make good financial sense, it is, in a sense, going backwards in the development of our infrastructure.”
    Mayberry said in southwest Iowa, Page County has chosen to return 30 percent of its seal coat roads back to aggregate.