Wood County Engineer John Musteric

Wood County may wade into storm water program

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Draining the Great Black Swamp came at great expense. Keeping it drained has also proven to be quite costly. Wood County Engineer John Musteric believes the bills for handling storm water can be divided more fairly in the county. So he has asked the county commissioners to approve a $50,000 study to examine the feasibility of setting up a storm water district in Wood County. “We’ve been after the commissioners to investigate this,” Musteric said. “I believe it’s a more fair way.” The feasibility study would show how much the county is spending to keep storm water at bay through ditch maintenance, removing debris in rivers, storm sewer repairs, catch basin repairs and manholes. “I think it’s going to be an eye-opener,” Musteric said. Depending on the findings, the study could result in the creation of a storm water district in the unincorporated areas of the county that would charge fees to landowners to support. “It has been proven in court that county commissioners can do this,” Musteric said. Many other areas in Ohio already have storm water districts in place, with monthly fees ranging from $3.47 in Toledo, and $4.06 in Lucas County to $3.50 in Elmore, and $8 in Oak Harbor. The assessments to landowners are based on the amount of “impervious property” on the parcel. In other words, how much space is covered with rooftops or pavement that doesn’t allow water to soak into the ground. Local farmers, Musteric said, will only be charged the minimum rate, since even if they have large areas of impervious property, it is balanced out with even larger areas of open ground. “I think the farmers will embrace it,” the county engineer said. The county auditor’s office would handle the assessments, Musteric said. The fees would likely be billed on property taxes as special assessments. By setting up a district funded by landowner fees, the county will be able to set money aside for storm water expenses. Currently, ditch improvements that aren’t under a maintenance plan along county roads are paid for with county road and bridge funding. So by creating a system of funding for storm water issues, the engineer’s office can use more of its road and bridge funding for the work it was intended for, Musteric said. The storm water district would not have to cover the entire county. It may be that only those landowners in the northern portion of Wood County will be assessed, since the storm water issues are greater where more development has occurred. The commissioners are considering Musteric’s request. The feasibility study is expected to last six to nine months. If the results show the value of a storm water district, the next step will be to develop a program, then create a billing system. A committee of residents and township trustees would then be set up to select storm water projects that need to be completed. The program would be administered by the county engineer’s office.


County moves money to pay for roads and bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In March, Wood County Engineer John Musteric reported that the county’s roads and bridges were in dire condition. They suffered from too many repairs needed and not enough funding. That announcement sent the Wood County Commissioners on a search for county funds that could be moved over for road and bridge improvements. And on Monday, the commissioners reported that they had come up with nearly $6.5 million to be used during the next five years to build and repair county bridges and roads. “We look forward to much progress in improving our roads and bridges,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said during a press conference announcing the funding. Herringshaw said it was clear that the county engineer’s office would never catch up with road and bridge repairs under the current funding system. The commissioners agreed earlier this year to enact a new $5 vehicle license fee, with the revenue going to road and bridge work. But Herringshaw said it was clear that wouldn’t generate enough funding to meet the needs. The county roads and bridges are at a crisis, Musteric said this past spring. “We’ve been in a crisis mode for a long time. We’ve got so much to take care of and maintain.” The county has 245 miles of roads to maintain, plus 441 bridges with an average age of 41 years. More than 20 bridges have passed the century mark, with the granddaddy of them all being the 133-year-old bridge on Custar Road south of Sand Ridge Road.“We’re way behind, way behind,” Musteric said in March. But the newly found funding will help, he said Monday. The road and bridge funding will come from the following sources: – One-time transfer of $1.8 million from Wood County Building Inspection cash balance. – One-time transfer of $300,000 from the conveyance fee that funds county economic development. – One-time transfer of $100,000 from the Wood County Clerk of Courts’ auto title fund. – $200,000 each year for five years from county sales tax revenue. – $650,000 annually from the new $5 vehicle license fee. Musteric said much of the funding will be spent on the road and bridge needs south of U.S. 6, where safety has become an issue. “These are your roads. I’m here to protect them and improve them,” he said. Nearly three-quarters of the county’s road conditions are currently rated marginal or lower. Nearly half of those are ranked as poor or serious. Bringing those roads up to fair condition would cost an estimated $39 million. The county engineer’s office is studying pavement preservation practices. The lifespan of average pavement is 25 years. To catch up, the county would need to pave 35 miles every year – costing about $10.3 million each year. Instead, the county has been spending about $1.1 million a year on paving. When it comes to bridges, the county plans to replace four this year, costing about $1.2 million. That is just a drop in the bucket, with 441 bridges in Wood County. More than half are over 50 years old, and 52 bridges are ranked in poor or worse shape. The cost to replace those 52 would add up to $20.8 million, Musteric said. At the pace the county is going, it would take 90 years to replace all the bridges. The big roadblock to paving and bridge repairs has been the lack of funding. The customary funding for the county engineer’s office comes from the state gas tax, license plate fees and a smaller portion from traffic fines. “It’s just a struggle because the gas tax…


Overweight trucks weigh heavy on minds of county officials

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County roads took a beating from the Rover pipeline construction across the southern part of the county. So Wood County Engineer John Musteric wants to get an overweight truck program in place before more pipeline construction traffic rumbles over county roads and bridges. But while the program will keep an eye on pipeline transports, it was decided that it won’t target farm traffic. The Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed the proposed fees for an overweight truck program – with the ultimate goal of saving county roads and bridges from unnecessary wear and tear. “This is to protect our assets,” Musteric said. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” At the same time, the engineer’s office is aware of many overweight loads using county roads and bridges. “We hope to God a catastrophe doesn’t happen,” with older bridges being weakened with every heavy load, Musteric said. The county has already posted signs notifying Nexus pipeline construction traffic of the route they are to take north of Bowling Green. The permit program will require the pipeline company to purchase permits for all of its trucks, and will allow the county to issue fines if the trucks stray from the assigned route that can better handle the heavy loads, Musteric said. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” The county learned a hard lesson from the Rover pipeline construction in the southern part of the county, Musteric said at a previous meeting. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” he said. Though the proposed overweight truck program has been unpopular with some, there are companies ready to pay for their permits, said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. For Nexus pipeline, the program will require more than 85 permits at a proposed $150 each. “They haven’t batted an eye,” Johnson said. But local farmers don’t feel the same. The initial proposal by the county engineer’s office called for an annual blanket permit for farm equipment of $100 each year. While all the other fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the farm fees do not. The commissioners asked that the blanket farm fees be discarded. “You don’t want to be the farm police,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. Grand Rapids area farmer Dan Potter said there would not be a meeting room big enough for all the unhappy farmers if the county enacted blanket fees. He explained that ODOT exempts all farm equipment driving down the road from overweight fees. No farm equipment weighs more than the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds, Potter said However, some semi-loads of grain may be overweight. But there is no way for farmers to determine the weight of the loads. “We know that coming out of the field it’s impossible to tell,” Johnson said. But Musteric said many farmers can tell if their tractors or trucks are struggling under a heavy load. “They know when it’s overweight,” Musteric said. “I’ve got to believe they know when it’s overweight.” Commissioner Craig LaHote suggested that the new overweight load program information be given to local grain elevators, so they can inform the farmers who bring in heavy loads. The goal of the program is to redirect heavy traffic away from roads and bridges that are not able to handle the loads. “This is really nothing new,” Musteric said. “All we’re trying to do is protect our assets. We know people are…


Portable scales may be used to deter overweight trucks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County officials tired of roads being beat up by overweight trucks may start using portable scales to snag those heavy loads. Wood County Engineer John Musteric and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn made a pitch to the county commissioners Thursday morning about setting up an overweight vehicle permit program using scales that can easily be transported throughout the county. The goal isn’t to make money off of permits and fines, Musteric said, but rather to discourage heavy trucks from breaking up county roads. Overweight truck traffic is increasing on interstates, so it’s only natural that to reach their destinations, those trucks have to use smaller county and township roads. While most trucking companies get permits with ODOT for overweight loads, they often neglect to get permits at the local level, Musteric said. Last year, Ohio issued 367,332 permits for overweight trucks. When detailing their routes, those trucking companies identified 46,034 loads that traveled through Wood County. Yet only 57 permits were issues for Wood County, Musteric said. The legal limit on Ohio roads is 80,000 pounds. Some of the heavy trucks weigh as much as 165,000 pounds. “Some of those people aren’t going to be happy,” Wasylyshyn said. Permits can be purchased per truck, per route traveled. “If they get off that route, and they get nailed, they pay hefty fines,” Musteric said. But Musteric stressed the goal isn’t to make money, but to control which roads overweight trucks travel. “Believe me, this is not a money grab for us,” he told the commissioners. The county’s roads and bridges are in “dire straits” and suffer from heavy loads. So part of the permitting program will be educational – with efforts made to direct overweight traffic to more suitable routes. The sheriff and engineer suggested that Wood County use portable scales as part of that educational process. “ODOT has three portable scales just waiting to be used, at no cost,” Musteric said. Construction of the Rover pipeline across southern Wood County has taught the engineer’s office a painful lesson, Musteric said. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” the engineer said. Signs have already been posted to keep Nexus pipeline construction trucks on roads that are better able to handle the heavy loads. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” A sheriff’s deputy could be trained to use the scales, which can handle trucks with up to 15 axles. The sheriff’s office gets complaints about trucks suspected of carrying heavy loads. A dump truck heaped high with stone is likely too heavy for local roads, Wasylyshyn said. “You can pretty much guarantee that truck is overweight,” he said. But without scales, his deputies can’t prove the truck is in violation. “I do get a lot of complaints about overweight trucks,” Wasylyshyn said. “But there’s very little I can do.” The sheriff also has safety concerns, since trucks designed to handle 80,000 pounds, but carrying 160,000 pounds, cannot stop or make turns as expected. Trucks under the 80,000 pound weight limit will not need to buy permits. And there is a 7.5 percent leeway allowed for farm trucks. “The whole idea is to educate our drivers,” Wasylyshyn said. “It’s not like we’re out looking to write tickets.” “Our goal is to get compliance,” he said. “We want to direct them off the 100-year-old bridge.” The average overweight load permit is $150. The fines for not having a permit vary, but can be as high as $1,000. Wood County will…


Wood County looking at rough roads and old bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s got some rough roads ahead, not to mention some bridges long overdue on being replaced. Wood County Engineer John Musteric took his road show to the crowded courthouse atrium Tuesday for the State of the County address. “It’s not good,” he told the crowd. The county has 245 miles of roads to maintain, plus 441 bridges with an average age of 41 years. More than 20 bridges have passed the century mark, with the granddaddy of them all being the 133-year-old bridge on Custar Road south of Sand Ridge Road. “We’re way behind, way behind,” Musteric said. Musteric drew a quick road map for the audience. Nearly three-quarters of the county’s roads are rated marginal or lower. Nearly half of those are ranked as poor or serious. Bringing those roads up to fair condition would cost an estimated $39 million. The county engineer’s office is studying pavement preservation practices. The lifespan of average pavement is 25 years. To catch up, the county would need to pave 35 miles every year – costing about $10.3 million each year. Instead, the county is spending about $1.1 million a year on paving. The county roads and bridges are at a crisis, Musteric said after the public address. “We’ve been in a crisis mode for a long time. We’ve got so much to take care of and maintain.” The engineer’s office is planning to draw the line at paving roads that have crumbling culverts underneath. Since there are about 2,500 culverts in the county, that could add up to quite a few road miles. When it comes to bridges, the county plans to replace four this year, costing about $1.2 million. That is just a drop in the bucket, with 441 bridges in Wood County. More than half are over 50 years old, and 52 bridges are ranked in poor or worse shape. The cost to replace those 52 would add up to $20.8 million, Musteric said. At the pace the county is going, it would take 90 years to replace all the bridges. The big roadblock to paving and bridge repairs is the lack of funding. The county engineer’s office gets funding from the state gas tax, license plate fees and a smaller portion from traffic fines. “It’s just a struggle because the gas tax hasn’t been raised,” Musteric said about the state tax. “We’re at their mercy. So Musteric has some ideas. He plans to talk with the county commissioners Thursday at 10 a.m. about a possible $5 permissive plate fee, plus an overweight vehicle program. “We’re not going to get rich on this,” but it will help, Musteric said. The plate fee would raise about $750,000 to $800,000 a year. The overweight permit plan has already faced criticism by some. “People think we’re going to target the farming community,” he said. But Musteric said the goal is to treat all motorists the same – and he knows that many people are violating road load limits. “Some of them are twice the legal loads,” he said. “It’s kind of silly to spend all this money to fix our roads and bridges and find out they are being driven over by overweight vehicles.” Musteric is also trying to shift some of the burden for roads and bridges to municipalities and townships where possible. His office is looking into putting bridges inside towns and cities into municipal maintenance. And he is studying moving some smaller roads off his list to local townships. Also at the state of the county address, Musteric talked about progress…