Cass County Board: Enblom gives final annual report

BACKUS--It definitely is more cost effective to have paved roads rather than gravel roads, David Enblom, retiring county engineer, told the Cass County Board as he presented his final annual report Tuesday.

BACKUS-It definitely is more cost effective to have paved roads rather than gravel roads, David Enblom, retiring county engineer, told the Cass County Board as he presented his final annual report Tuesday.

The break-even point for pay-back on the initial cost to pave a road is 15 years, he said. The normal lifespan for pavement is between 25 and 30 years.

Cass County had 500.3 miles of regular state aid highways in 2016. Of those 369.37 miles were paved, and 130.93 miles were gravel. The county had 31.5 miles of municipal state aid streets. All of those were paved.

The county's county road system, which is ineligible for state aid funding, included 285.61 miles. Of those, 79.29 miles were paved, and 206.32 miles were gravel. Generally, county roads carry fewer vehicles per day than state aid roads.

Cass County maintains 26 more miles of roads today than when Enblom joined the highway department in 1996. Some roads were added to the system when state or federal matching money became available for the Great River Road program or for roads abutting federal land, Enblom recalled.


As the county has smoothed curves and rerouted some county highways, orphan sections of old road have been left.

The county has turned 20 miles of such short roads to townships since Enblom became county engineer 20 years ago. The county improves these roads before towns take ownership.

State aid road maintenance payments to Cass have gradually risen between $60,000 and $160,000 a year over the last five years. The 2016 state paid payment was $2,184,505.

County property taxes paid additionally between $500,000 and $860,000 per year toward state aid road maintenance. In 2016, the county spent more on re-graveling county roads than its state aid gravel roads, so its state aid maintenance contribution was only $517,223.

State aid construction money has been up and down over the last five years, ranging between $1,854,715 and $4,220,898.

In 2016, Cass used $2,809,353 state aid for road building and reconstruction. The county matched that with $332,495 from property tax levy and $625,218 from the new local option sales tax.

For 2017, the county expects to receive about $1,500,000 from the local option sales tax. Budgeting calls for spending $1,125,000, with the balance used to offset property taxes and to set aside a reserve fund. That reserve fund will be used to keep paving programs on track even if the county does not earn as much from the sales tax as expected.

That could happen in an economic recession period.


Costs have not only risen in the last 30 years for bituminous, but also for gravel, Enblom said.

Equipment, too, has risen. The county paid just under $112,000 each to buy two new road graders in 1996. The new grader Cass purchased in 2016 ran $265,290, less $64,000 trade-in on its 14-year-old grader.

Cass paid $205,809.86 each for two new tandem plow trucks in 2016, less $32,000 trade-in on each. The 2004 trade-ins cost the county $103,193.56 each when they were new in 2004.

Road construction projects Cass County completed in 2016 are a County Road 107 bridge replacement, reconstruction of County State Aid Highway 7 by Longville, overlays on CSAH 18, 75 and 78 and on CR 150 and resurfacing CR 116 and CR 117.

Construction work still in progress include reconstruction on CSAH 1, an overlay on CSAH 29, a culvert replacement and overlay on CSAH 24, street reconstruction in the city of Walker and replacing a township bridge in Wabedo.

Construction projects planned for 2017 include culvert replacements and overlay on CSAH 20 and 23, reconstruction and bituminous surfacing on CSAH 77 in Lake Shore, Laura Brook bridge replacement on CR 129, grade correction on CR 115 and reconstruction on CR 156.

Cass County has replaced satellite highway maintenance garages at Cass Lake and Pine River and will replace the Remer garage in 2017. The county also installed garage additions at Hackensack and Pillager in 2016. The main shop at Walker had a shop renovation in 2014.

The 1973 shop at Longville will be the next satellite garage the county considers replacing. Updated garages have been designed with significantly improved energy efficiency.


Cass has $429,873.53 worth of supplies for its operations, ranging from tires and blade cutting edges to gasoline and oil and gravel piles and signs.

The county owns major equipment like graders, pickups and backhoes that cost $5,964,814.29 new and are worth $2,163,340.81 after depreciation. Its oldest pieces of major equipment are a 1985 John Deere tractor and a 1963 Vibrapack steel roller.

Cass has shop equipment that cost $63,347.96 new and is worth $1,192.64 after depreciation. Its oldest pieces in this category are 1977 models, including a bench grinder, a tire bead breaker and a 50-ton press.

It cost Cass County $5,400.22 per mile to maintain regular state roads, $5,050.01 to maintain municipal state aid roads and $6,996.81 to maintain county roads in 2016.

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