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Adams Co. Public Works discusses transpo plan, public hearing

by GABRIEL DAVIS
Staff Writer | November 28, 2023 6:19 PM

RITZVILLE — The regular Adams County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 21 meeting featured discussion between the commissioners and Public Works regarding the 2024-2029 Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan projects, as well as progress on jail renovations. 

Assistant Public Works Director Troy Reynolds said the department had updated the improvement plan by adding Schoonover Road Project 3 to the list, slated for 2028. 

“We added that because we learned … that Adams County benefited from the state asking for redistribution of federal surface transportation dollars, which is redistributing of other states’ federal dollars in the sum of almost $72 million to Washington State,” Reynolds said. “The other (thing) is sanctioned funds, which people within our group that don't spend those funds get sanctioned if they don't use them in three years.”

Reynolds said he also moved the Adams County Lee Road and Columbia Basin Railroad Crossing project from 2024 to 2025 to similarly capitalize on state funding.

“For 100% funding we have to spend that money by 2026, but we're project-strong next year in 2024,” he said. “It gives me some breathing room, especially since I'm dealing with something that's not really normal to us.”

Commissioner Dan Blankenship said he was concerned about what might happen to the county’s budget if the projects that are being funded in the improvement plan are funded or begin all at once, and Public Works Director Todd O’Brien also expressed concern.

“Even though they're 100% funded, they're reimbursable. For example, right now … for a 45-day period, our department's paying out over $3.5 million worth of work, and we have to have the cash sitting inside to do that, so that we can immediately pay it and ask for reimbursement. And sometimes those take anywhere from two to six weeks … We've been highly successful in the last two years in getting money and getting projects. How we coordinate those is going to be a challenge in the next two to three years.”

    Public Works Director Todd O’Brien discussed the progress of improvements and repairs in the Adams County jail during the Nov. 21 Adams County Board of Commissioners meeting, such as renovations needed for the jail ceiling tiles, pictured, and more.
 
 


O’Brien explained the issue with state funding in more detail.

“If you don't perform, then you get sanctioned, and they give (the funds) to somebody else. So it's a delicate balance or dance on how accepting all this money sounds fantastic, but if you can't put it out the door, you're going to get it taken away,” he said. “And putting it out the door is a double-edged sword. One, cash that you have on hand to be able to pay for it, and two, employees to put it out … how do we come up with $15 million if we get three project bridges at once?”

Overall, O’Brien said, the distributed and allocated funding from the state is still a good thing for the county. 

“In the end, it's a good thing because the construction costs are going up so much of the year, we're going to get something done, potentially three or four years in advance,” he said.

The public hearing regarding the transportation improvement plan will be held Dec. 5 during the regular commissioners meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. A copy of the transportation improvement plan draft can be found at bit.ly/AdamsPublicWorks.

O’Brien then discussed the progress of the Adams County Jail improvements and repairs. 

“On the electrical portion of it, we're trying to get some vandal-proof lighting to go back into the locations where we are, we've worked on the outlets and got them disabled in all of the cells, different locations,” O’Brien said. “We've got an issue with ceiling tile that I need to get with the Sheriff on.”

O’Brien said Public Works is also working on finding a company to clean the jail’s ducts and potentially replace a circulation pump, among other repairs on the length list of improvements needed at the facility. 

    The Adams County Courthouse, pictured, houses the Adams County Board of Commissioners meetings, the Adams County Public Works Department and the Adams County jail.
 
 


Blankenship said Public Works needs to assess the costs of the jail repairs. 

“We need to figure out what dollars are coming out of facilities and maintenance, how much of that's going to have to come out of the (American Rescue Plan Act) allocation … so that we can prioritize what's left with the list and get the biggest bang for the buck,” he said.

Also at the meeting, Reynolds said the Hatton Road Safety Project has been completed, and the commissioners also signed a pay estimate of $1.1 million to Granite Construction for work on the ongoing Deal Road project.

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com. Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android.