A representative of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin met with the county officials in Cherokee on May 13th, as part of a survey of all 99 counties regarding road and bridge needs.
Maureen Wilson of Harkin's office, addressing the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors and the Cherokee County Engineer, was primarily interested in infrastructure needs to be addressed in an upcoming transportation bill being sponsored by Harkin.
Larry Clark, county engineer, noted that the average date of construction for bridges in Cherokee County is 1947 and the average length is 66 feet. He said that some 100 bridges have been posted with restrictions and some have been totally closed.
Clark estimated that the county needs $28 million for bridge repair and replacement, mostly replacement, and gets about $270,000 in federal funds. There is very little state funding, paying for only about 10 project a year throughout the state.
Clark said that people get the mistaken idea that because the county's population has gone down, that there is less wear on roads and bridges. However, car traffic has a trivial impact on roads and bridges compared to farm equipment, which has constantly heavier over the years.
Wilson indicated that she has being hearing much the same thing from other counties regarding infrastructure needs. The collapse of a bridge in Minnesota last year has added a sense of urgency to the need for updating infrastructure.
Kris Glienke, deputy auditor, had some good financial news for the supervisors. The workers compensation insurance fee is going from $92,284 to $73,857 for a year's coverage. The fee is based on claims history over the last few years.
Also, health insurance costs are expected to only increase slightly or not at all when that is announced soon.
Glienke noted that self-insurance for part of the health insurance deductible has resulted in substantial savings. The employees have policies with $2,000 deductibles but the county gives partial reimbursement to employees to make the effective deductible $750.