By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — The Daviess County Council has thrown both its words and finances to support a plan to speed up completion of the expansion of the Odon-Cannelburg Road that is also known as CR 900E. The council has signed off on a letter of support for the County Highway Department to seek a grant to finish the work and has also approved a plan that would cover the local matching funds. The total cost of project is projected at $11.6 million $11,671,000 with the local matching money totalling $2.9 million.
"This money would be available in 2017 and would let us complete the project all the way to CR 1250N," said county Highway Superintendent Phil Cornelius. "If it is funded then it would also have to be completed by the end of 2017."
Daviess County is already working on the first phase of the project that will expand the width of the road and add buggy lanes to separate motor vehicle and buggy traffic on the busy road that runs through the heart of the Amish country in the eastern part of the county. Officials had been anticipating finishing the work in stages, but earlier this month were told the state had changed the way it dispenses the money for special projects and that the CR 900E project had a good chance of getting fully funded in the next round of grants.
"Moving this forward is a good thing," said Cornelius. "The residents out there have told us they want to see it get completed and let them get back to normal as quickly as possible."
Councilman Dave Smith, who had questioned the project in the past came out in support of getting it done. "I had some phone calls from people who didn't want the work done, but when we had our public hearings they wouldn't stand up and say anything," he explained. "Then we had that last accident out there where that girl was killed and there was no alcohol involved or anything. That changed my mind."
Another change on the state level may also help get the project along. Earlier this year the state began distributing additional funds to local counties as part of a change in the gas tax. Daviess County has designated those funds to be used for the local match for Odon-Cannelburg Road. "Of the $2.9 million in local matching money, we have about $1.7 million in local highway funds set aside," said Cornelius. "The county council is going to cover the rest of the $1.2 million."
The council has also approved an addition to the Highway Department staff that could save even more money on the project. Members voted in favor of a request by Cornelius to add a county engineer. "By having our own engineer on-site to handle inspections we could directly save $253,000 on the project. We could also recoup as much as 80 percent of another $1 million set aside for federal engineering work."
While the engineering position is expected to help the county recover hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Odon-Cannelburg road project, officials believe an engineer can be a big cost saver in the future on other projects. "There are more and more regulations heading our way," said Cornelius. "Having someone on staff who can handle permitting and inspections is going to be a big deal. I see our county growing and more projects in the future. An engineer on staff can save us money in meeting regulations, in designing better projects, and completing inspections"
The money for the position will come out of the motor vehicle highway fund with the county putting up $55,000 for salary and the state kicking in another $20,000. "I think we need to approach this from a long-term standpoint," said Councilman Jo Arthur.
"I have a feeling we are going to have more than enough in the future to keep that person busy," added Councilman Mike Sprinkle.
With the council's approval the Highway Department is ready to move forward on hiring an engineer. "I am going to advertise this position as quickly as possible," said Cornelius. "I would like to get the new engineer hired right after the first of the year."
If that happens the county engineer should be in place to find out what the state and federal government have in mind for the Odon-Cannelburg Road project. An announcement on the county's application on the project is expected in mid-January.