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Road projects starve in Dane County budget

Paul Snyder

Road builders hungry for work will find little to sustain them in Dane County’s proposed 2010 budget.

“With the downturn in commercial work, a lot more road builders have been relying on public works projects,” said Chris Homburg, owner of Monona-based Homburg Contractors Inc. “And we’ve had more road builders around this year than ever before.”

That means more vying for less as Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk proposed Thursday a budget with eight road projects, down from 14 in the 2009 budget. In her budget announcement, Falk said every aspect of county government will suffer cutbacks as the national economic crisis continues.

“All over the county, families are wondering how they’re going to make do with less,” she said. “The same process has been going on in county government for the last five months.”

The county never bids out a tremendous number of projects, Homburg said, but it still is alarming that public sector work is decreasing, particularly because the slowdown is in tandem with drops in commercial work.

Matt Veldran, a county supervisor and member of the county’s Public Works & Transportation Committee, said he understands that competition for road projects will increase as available work decreases, but the cash-strapped county has few options.

“We’re working on bare bones,” he said. “It’s about priorities right now. Even if you funded everything that people asked for in this budget, you’d still have needs.”

Dane County roads are slated to get $4.5 million in Falk’s 2010 budget proposal, but only $2.25 million is county money. The rest is from state and federal aid.

Planning for the future, however minimally, remains. In addition to the eight projects scheduled to receive money, Falk said, she added $1 million to the budget for planning work on the expansion of the intersection at highways M and S on the Madison’s west side. The city is expected to help pay for planning and eventual construction costs.

Veldran said the projects that got money in the 2010 budget proposal were those that his county committee identified as priorities. Those projects include continued work on the county’s portion of University Avenue between Segoe Road and Shorewood Boulevard.

“I do believe that whatever’s going forward has been prioritized in terms of maintaining public safety on those roads,” he said. “I think we’ve always done a good job of that.”

The Public Works & Transportation Committee will need to review the money set aside for the projects in the budget, Veldran said, but he would not commit to pushing for more spending.

In a year during which Falk had to raise the county tax levy to 7.9 percent, he said, he isn’t sure the county has more options.

“How much more construction can you look at?” Veldran said. “I honestly don’t know.”

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