May 17, 2022

Supervisors raise spending limit for county engineer

Action only applies to maintenance work, construction projects still need approval

Rising costs, inflation and material shortages, which have plagued the county over the past year, were all driving forces behind the Jasper County Board of Supervisors’ decision to raise county engineer Mike Frietsch’s secondary roads spending limit from $10,000 to $30,000.

Under the previous rule, anytime the county engineer’s office had a maintenance project exceeding $10,000, Frietsch had to present his plans to the board to justify the expense.

Increased costs of almost everything for maintenance projects — such as parts replacements or bridge repairs — are now exceeding that limit far more frequently. Frietsch expained in a letter to supervisors explaining the predicament secondary roads has found itself in time and time again for the past year.

“Extended lead times are requiring our department to act quickly in procuring materials for repairs or replacements. Secondary roads request increasing this limit to afford us the opportunity to act quickly in making repairs and replacements and not having to wait for this board’s approval,” Frietsch said in the letter.

The letter also explained the increase would only apply to county road and bridge maintenance projects, not construction projects. Any construction spending would still require board approval, regardless of the amount of funding being requested.

Frietsch ended the letter asking the supervisors to consider the challenges the engineer’s office has had to face and requested the board agree to increase the spending limit to $50,000. Supervisors agreed the $10,000 limit was too low, but to increase it to $50,000 seemed a bit steep.

Supervisor Brandon Talsma said, “$50,000 is quite a bit of money. It’s important for the public to know how their money is being used, even if it is for maintenance.”

There is also the issue of accountability. If major maintenance projects don’t go through the supervisor’s approval process, the public will be unaware of all the work that is being done.

The board elected to split the difference and raise the limit to $30,000.

Contact Abby Knipfel at 641-792-3121 ext. 6531 or aknipfel@shawmedia.com

Abby Knipfel

Abby "Adler" Knipfel

Journalist at Newton Daily News. Currently covering Jasper County and writing passionate opinion pieces. They/Them