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County bridge funds frozen

CROWN POINT — Although the Lake County Highway Department will receive an estimated extra $50,000 from the motor vehicle revenue fund in 2013, that is a drop in the bucket when it comes to maintaining streets and highways in unincorporated Lake County.

The big hit to this department is that the cumulative bridge revenue has been stalled at $2 million for at least the last three years. Highway Superintendent Mark Malczewski told the County Council during a 2013 budget hearing last week that members will have to look seriously at the bridge fund. There has been no increase in the last three years.

They are looking at some major safety work on their bridges coming up sooner than the budgets allow. The Highway Department maintains bridges that are part of a county road.

Malczewski said there was a $200,000 increase in the cost of fuel over the last year. That is much lower than it would have been if the snow had been heavy and they would have had to send the plows out more often.

Added to that is the zero balance and projected balance in both the construction fund and rainy-day fund.

Councilman Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, asked Malczewski about his department adding new software to answer and log all incoming calls for service. Malczewski said he would love it.

“At this time, we log every call by hand,” he said, adding, “it is important for us to log all calls.”

The new software would log in the calls by time, project and work done. That way, if someone waits to get to work and calls about the same pothole that the County Highway Department already has fixed because of an earlier call, the program will show that.

There is nothing in the construction fund or the rainy day fund and hasn’t been because of the freeze imposed by the state. They are not even sure what, if any, funds will be available for the Highway Department from the county’s casino revenue.

The salary positions for the Highway Department have gone down by the elimination of three people. Two were truck drivers who retired in June, and the other was a vacant mechanic position.

That reduces salaries and insurance costs.

The $1.6 million that the County Highway Department will receive from Major Moves in 2013 will be used for 45th Avenue.



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