Staffing shortages cause road construction projects in Douglas County to be put on hold
Some projects previously expected to be completed in 2022 will have to wait until 2023.
In just about any business nowadays, there seems to be a shortage of employees and Douglas County Public Works is no different.
Tim Erickson, Douglas County Public Works director, said because his department is short-staffed, some road construction projects previously slated for 2022 won’t happen.
“We have about half the engineering staff we had so we had to move some projects,” Erickson told Douglas County commissioners during their board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Erickson provided information to the commissioners on proposed road projects that are part of the county’s five-year construction plan.
Some projects that were not completed in 2021 because of staffing issues were moved to 2022 and projects originally planned for 2022 have been moved to 2023. If staffing shortages continue, Erickson said the 2023 projects may have to wait until 2024.
We have about half the engineering staff we had so we had to move some projects.
The five-year construction plan is put in place, but not necessarily set in stone. Staffing issues, as well as funding, could have an impact on what projects are actually completed, he said.
Funding for road projects comes from several sources, including from state and federal government, along with local levies and property tax. As funding changes, so does the priority of the projects, added Erickson.
The five-year construction plan, he said, is a budgetary tool to show not only the upcoming projects but also to show how and where the money is coming from for each of the projects.
For 2021, about $4.2 million was generated from sales tax, which was used for 13 different road projects, Erickson said, noting that it was a record-setting year. He added that the half percent sales tax was enacted in 2014 by the Douglas County Board specifically to generate funds for those 13 road projects.
For 2022, there are several roads expected to be worked on, including County Roads 7, 8, 9, 13, 45 and 104.
The County Road 45 project is a roundabout that will be built at the intersection with County Road 82 near the Alexandria YMCA.
Within the next five years, there are three other roundabouts expected to be built at intersections in Douglas County.
In 2023, a roundabout is expected to be built at the intersection of County Road 45 and Highway 27 near the Pilot gas station and truck stop. A roundabout is proposed to be built in 2024 at the intersection of County Road 46 and McKay Avenue, where there is currently a stoplight. Another is expected in 2025 at the intersection of County Road 22 and Voyager Drive near Casey’s Convenience Store and Kinkead Cemetery.
About 10 intersections will see some improvements this year through new lighting that will be put in place. Funds for the lighting projects come from the Highway Safety Improvement Program.
HSIP is a federal-aid funding program designed to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The goal of the program, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation website, is to identify, implement and evaluate cost effective construction safety projects. Lighting at intersections falls under the program guidelines.
Douglas County commissioners approved the five-year construction plan, which in essence gives Erickson the authority to move ahead with the projects and do what needs to be done to get them completed.