Midstate governments join to stretch road dollars

mstucka@macon.comFebruary 7, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- The path to better roads may be paved with good cooperation.

Some midstate governments are again joining together to get a bulk discount on road paving, which literally stretches the work.

“Being the smallest city or county involved in the project, it helps us,” said Pulaski County Commissioner M.A. “Butch” Hall. “Last year, for example, we probably got an extra mile, mile and a quarter paved. Instead of 6.6 miles, we probably got close to eight miles.”

Bids for this year are scheduled to be opened Monday.

Johnny Brooks, Houston County’s traffic engineer, said the county pays $65 for a ton of asphalt when it uses its own truck to go to the plant. Last year’s bid got asphalt purchased, delivered and installed on the road for $66.89 a ton.

“The asphalt people are a lot friendlier when you’re getting 30,000 tons as opposed to five in our patch truck,” he said.

Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker said the big group buys may save the most money for the smallest governments, but everyone should get a better rate.

“The more you buy, the cheaper it’s going to get,” he said.

Each government keeps control over its own money and its own projects.

The group rate started last year when Houston County, Warner Robins, Centerville, Perry, Hawkinsville and Pulaski County banded together. All of those governments are back this year, and Byron has joined them.

Byron Mayor Larry Collins said the cheaper the work, the more they can repave.

“The cities that bind themselves together as a purchasing group are in a better position to negotiate for prices by buying in bulk,” Collins said.

This year’s package included materials for 22.61 miles of roads in the seven governments’ jurisdictions. The work goes beyond asphalt, such as requiring miles of yellow traffic striping to be installed.

Most of the money comes through the state’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant funding, with smaller matches by local governments. Some use sales tax money to stretch that funding further without tapping property tax revenues.

Several government officials said the success of the group purchase could lead them to look at other kinds of group buys. However, many governments have already been buying in bulk, such as purchasing police cars through a state contract or insurance through the Georgia Municipal Association.

It’s not at all clear, however, whether such cooperation could help lay the groundwork for another effort at a transportation sales tax. State legislators have discussed allowing sub-regional transportation sales tax votes, after regional referendums for what was called the T-SPLOST were defeated in most parts of the state, including the midstate.

Stalnaker said he didn’t think the cooperation could lead to more support for a T-SPLOST. However, he said, getting even more governments in the transportation bidding could lower prices more.

“If you had a contractor who knew he or she could get every contract in Middle Georgia for resurfacing, I think you could get a pretty good price,” said Stalnaker, who has mentioned the idea to an official with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

Collins called the defeat of the T-SPLOST here “a disastrous failure for everyone that was involved in that.” But transportation funding has changed a great deal from 50 years ago, when locals would take a bushel of peaches to transportation officials in Atlanta.

“You always came back with a couple miles of paving,” Collins said.

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