The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners continued discussing fixing up four miles of the road in Roberts near Kettle Butte Dairy during their meeting June 3.
The road in question was flooded in February 2017, said Dave Walrath, the county’s road and bridge administrator, in a separate interview. Walrath said the issue with the road arises when water flows down from Kettle Butte during the winter.
“If the ground is frozen, and we get a rain event on snow, the water has nowhere to go, so it starts finding its way downhill,” he said.
Previously estimated at $4.5 million, the road improvements may actually cost $3.5 to $4 million, with the county putting some of its own employees on the project, Walrath said. However, if the county does not receive enough money from outside sources, the project will most likely be a “no-go,” Commissioner Scott Hancock said.
“$800,000 is what the county would be on the hook for on this road if we were to take every dime on a cash match out of our pockets,” Hancock said. “Which, that’s about one-third of our total road/bridge budget, which we can’t afford to do for a four mile stretch.”
That “cash match” is the 20% portion of the project costs the county needs to come up with outside of a grant offered by the Economic Development Administration. The commissioners plan to apply for the grant, due June 26, which would pay up to 80% of the funding for the road, according to Ted Hendricks, the Development Company’s community and economic director.
Making the grant application as thorough as possible was the major reason Hendricks spoke with the commissioners. Hendricks said they needed to define which contributions would be considered in-kind versus cash match. And although using county resources may significantly reduce the cost of the road, it could also make grant applications more complicated.
“Your truck hauling, your placement of the mat, all of that, we would classify that as in-kind when it’s using county equipment and county employees,” he said.
The commissioners expressed concerns, and Hancock said the county is still “having to fork out the dollars” to pay for that labor and equipment. Hendricks said “the in-kind is still valuable” and would be counted as cash by the federal government, although it would be classified differently than cash match.
“We realize that,” Hancock said. “But it makes a difference, though, in how much we have to come up with on a cash match. That’s what the big deal is. I mean, if we’re spending a half million dollars in equipment and labor, then they’re saying, ‘Well, you still have to come up with another half million dollars.’ Well, that’s a million dollars. That’s not the same as 20%, that’s 30, 40%. You’ve got to look at it from that perspective.”
The EDA grant would require a 20% match in order to contribute the remaining 80%, Walrath said. However, Hendricks said state funding of up to $500,000 could contribute to that 20%, and additional funds may come from businesses that would benefit from the road, such as Jerome Resources and Cannon Dairy Farms. Hendricks also said “as a rule of thumb,” the EDA would like to see 100 employees benefit for every $1 million in grant dollars awarded. Hendricks said future employees can be counted into that amount, and said expected growth of Jerome Resources will likely help the county get closer to that number.