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Chris Hoffman

Ravalli County Commissioner Chris Hoffman

Ravalli County Commission

Three weeks ago, board chairman Commissioner Jeff Burrows wrote the inaugural Commissioners Corner. In it, he briefly mentioned the road shop’s spring schedule.

The lion’s share of complaints and phone calls in general to the Ravalli County Commissioners concerns the condition of our roads and bridges. For that reason, we would like to drill down a bit deeper today to talk about the mission of the Ravalli County Road & Bridge Department and the challenges it faces.

Citizens might be interested to know that the Road & Bridge Department maintains 300 miles of paved road and 250 miles of gravel road in the county. In addition, the department maintains 100 bridges, 50 high-capacity culverts, 3,000 smaller culverts, and approximately 5,000 signs. Besides the primary shop located in Hamilton, the department maintains satellite shops located in Conner, Corvallis, Victor and Stevensville.

Examples of day-to-day operations are installation and maintenance of guard rails, culverts, bridges, signs, and roadway striping. Maintenance activities include pothole patching, road grading, applying road stabilization and dust abatement, snow plowing and sanding, sweeping, paving, chip sealing, and resurfacing roadways with gravel. The department often responds to emergency situations to remove blown down trees and fallen rock. They also clear brush and other hazards from roadways.

Personnel work with the planning department to review road plans for subdivisions, encroachment permits, approach permits, and right-of-way issues. The roughly 160 major pieces of equipment are maintained in the main Hamilton shop.

There are 18 full time employees, including the road shop supervisor and road administrator. If warranted by workload, there are up to five part-time operators added to the workforce during the April to November work season.

Some of the primary goals and objectives of the Road & Bridge Department are, first and foremost, to ensure the public safety and welfare of the motoring public by maintaining roadways, bridges and culverts; install and maintain roadway signs and markers; clear brush, trees, and rock slides from roadways; establish communication with emergency services from the county, cities and state to ensure efficiency of operations.

All of these critical functions, and many not mentioned here, must be carried out within a current budget appropriation of approximately $3 million. In the coming weeks, we’ll be paving the way to talk about the challenges faced by the Road & Bridge Department in carrying out all these functions in the face of reduced resources.

Ravalli County has seen a reduction in federal funding, and other funding sources are always uncertain. So road shop administrators and the county commissioners are constantly discussing ways the road shop can provide an adequate service to the community in terms of maintaining our road inventory, and all of its other functions, in the most efficient way. As we continue these conversations, we want to keep our neighbors informed and hope for your input.

In the meantime, it is obvious to all that, as always, winter has been hard on our road system. We ask for your patience with road crews as they begin patching potholes and grading gravel roads to reduce washboarded surfaces. We’d like you also to be aware that as spring runoff begins, the crew will likely be dealing with high-water issues as they emerge. Finally, after the grading season, the department intends to begin gravel road stabilization and dust abatement. Later in the year, they will begin carrying out their schedule of maintenance on certain oil surface and paved roads in the county.

We would once again remind you that if you’d like to participate in road stabilization and dust abatement, call the Road & Bridge Department at 363-2733. And if you have questions or comments about anything you read in the Commissioners Corner, please call us at 375-6500.

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