It could be awhile before the dust settles at the Moffat County Road and Bridge Department.
The department is anticipating more washboard roads and plenty of dust as it tries to maintain county roads on a limited budget.
The department has made a number of cuts to save money while the county struggles financially, said Bill Mack, Road and Bridge director.
"We just the hope the traveling public understands we're under budget cuts and are sympathetic," Mack said.
The cut that probably will have the greatest impact on taxpayers will be the lack of magwater on county roads this summer. Magwater is a mix of magnesium chloride designed to collect moisture back into the road during the night. Magwater helps keep dust down and holds roads together.
Mack expects drivers to see the effects on highly traveled roads that won't hold together as well as they have in previous years. The effects also will come in the form of more washboard roads and plenty of dust.
The winter was rather mild, and most county roads weren't impacted that greatly, Mack said. However, it seemed that the storms that did come arrived on weekends, meaning snowplow operators were earning overtime pay.
The mild winter has given way to a dry spring. Road and Bridge employees are regrading county roads, but they are having to haul water to pack the roads down, because they contain little moisture.
In the department's only capital project of the year, two bridges on County Road 22 and one on Moffat County Road 103 will be replaced with culverts. The bridges are made of wood and the wood is starting to deteriorate, Mack said.
The replacement has been a priority for the past two years, but it took a back seat to the repaving of 24 miles of County Road 57, a project that took three years to finish.
The bridge replacements will be paid for by a grant from the state Department of Local Affairs. Mack said C.R. 22 would be closed for a short period of time, but the closure shouldn't affect many drivers. A detour will be set up for County Road 103 during construction. The projects should begin late this summer.
It's questionable whether Road and Bridge's situation will improve anytime soon. Mack said iron prices have increased by 70 percent, and there is no telling how high fuel prices may climb.
Yet he said he's hoping to fill some vacant positions starting in May and continuing into June.
To save money during the past three years, Road and Bridge has not filled vacant positions or replaced aging equipment. Mack said he has already seen maintenance costs increase, and there is a long list of equipment that needs replaced.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.