New asphalt plant expected to pay for itself

by Brian Hoffmann
Sheboygan County Board Member

This is the 4th in a series looking at Sheboygan County Government to answer the question: What do we get for our county’s tax dollars?  The Transportation Department is one of the biggest Departments with a budget of $23,134,399 which includes $11,195,000 in sales tax revenue. 

Their Mission Statement is “Creating Safe and Reliable Transportation.” There are 95 full time employees and 12 part time employees during the summer months.  The primary responsibility of the Transportation Department is the maintenance, design, and construction of the 450-mile system of county trunk highways, maintenance and repair of 152 county bridges is also high priority.

There are also maintenance contracts with 15 of the local 28 local units of government made up by towns, and villages to cover another 465 miles. By agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation the department also does routine maintenance of 170 miles of state roads. Maintenance includes: 1) Center lining 1,085 miles of roads. 2) Snow removal. 3) Brush cutting and mowing. 4) Litter pickup. 5) Pot hole repairs. 6) Signage. 7) Chip sealing and crack filling. 8) Roadside drainage, and shoulder repair. 

Winter presents a big challenge.  For a typical 2” snowfall,  45 trucks will be deployed ranging from single axle to a quad axile.  All of the trucks have the capability to apply salt with salt brine added. Salt brine is basically liquid salt.  

Salt brine can be applied prior to a snow event which provides time to react and it also prevents snow from bonding to the pavement.  

From 2006 through 2021, we have witnessed a 27% reduction from rock salt use.  This is great for the environment. Rock salt cost about $84.00 per ton and salt brine costs is less than $.25 per gallon to produce.  Currently we have capability to inventory 157,000 gallons of salt brine.  To date we have used 635,102 gallons of salt brine on our state, county, local roads.

The staff has the ability to maintain the equipment.  Every phase of road construction from start to finish is done.  This includes design, earth moving, dealing with drainage issues, aggregate placement, pipe installation, finish grading, asphalt placement, signage, and center lining. 

Due to the natural resources that Sheboygan County has, it is advantageous for the county to crush its own aggregate and produce its own asphalt.  The main production facility is in the town of Greenbush.  This gives us greater control over production cost and flexibility over project management.  

The current plant is 35 years old and is not operating efficiently.  During 2022 we will be replacing this plant at a cost of $5.7 million.   With the new plant we will be able to utilize more recycled asphalt which will in turn reduce our reliance on our gravel deposits, as well as the asphalt cement (oil) needed to produce asphalt. The investment will more than pay for itself.   The new plant will be financed by the Transportation Fund.  I can definitely say we are getting a lot for our tax dollars that we pay for the Transportation Department.

We in Wisconsin know there are two seasons – Winter and Road Construction.  Be vigilant, when following snow equipment and be cautious when traveling through work zones.

Special thanks to Transportation Director Greg Schnell for his assistance with this article.

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