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Today's News

Rain Blamed For Culvert Collapse, Repair Delays

Rain is hampering efforts to repair a culvert that collapsed Monday, forcing the closure of a Starke County Road. County highway superintendent Rik Ritzler tells WKVI News the culvert on 125 West just north of 250 North collapsed Monday. A county highway crew is making repairs but was unable to finish the work yesterday due to the rain. Ritzler hopes they can wrap up the work today so the road can reopen. Until then 125 West is closed between 250 and 300 North. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Department Waiting on Bridge Inspector

Starke County Highway Department employees paved the new bridge earlier this week.

Starke County Highway Department employees paved the new bridge earlier this week.

Repairs to the bridge over the Yellow River on Starke County Road 700 East are finished, but it’s not open to traffic yet. County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler tells WKVI News the bridge needs to be inspected first. Continue reading

County Road 700 East Could Reopen Next Week

 

Emergency repairs to the bridge over the Yellow River on Starke County Road 700 East are almost finished. It’s been closed since April, when a tree floating down the river struck the bridge supports and compromised the structure. Continue reading

Emergency Bridge Repairs On Schedule

Repairs to the bridge on 700 East over the Yellow River should wrap up next week.

Repairs to the bridge on 700 East over the Yellow River should wrap up next week.

Emergency repairs to the bridge on Starke County Road 700 East over the Yellow River are on schedule to wrap up next week. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Accept Bridge Bids

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

Work on two replacement bridges in Starke County will begin as soon as possible. The county commissioners Monday accepted bids from LaPorte Construction Company for the bridge on County Road 800 East over Eagle Creek and the bridge on County Road 900 South over Bogus Run. They submitted the lowest of the two bids for both projects. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Department Chip Seals Record Number of Road Miles

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

The Starke County Highway Department recently finished chip sealing 47 miles of roadway, which ties 2013 as the most miles of roads done in the last 15 years. They did set a record by completing the work in nine days, compared to 16 last year. They credit good weather and minimal equipment delays with getting the work done quickly and say they have also developed a good system which allows them to be more efficient. Continue reading

Bridge Repair To Start Today on 700 East

Repair work on the bridge over the Yellow River on 700 East will start today.

Repair work on the bridge over the Yellow River on 700 East will start today.

A LaPorte-based contractor will begin repairs on the bridge over the Yellow River on County Road 700 East today. It’s been closed since a tree floating down the river struck one of the bridge supports earlier this year, rendering the structure unstable. Continue reading

Commissioners Approve 4-Way Stop at Sportyz Intersection

4-way_stop_signTravelers in the Bass Lake area will soon have a new four-way stop to regulate traffic. The Starke County Commissioners last week approved the addition of more stop signs on County Roads 210 and 675 East to better control traffic in the heavily congested area. Extensive signage will be placed at the approaches to warn motorists of the new traffic pattern. Continue reading

Railroad Crossing Work Scheduled in Starke County

Norfolk Southern Railroad is closing four railroad crossings in Starke County for repairs. Company officials advised Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler the crossings would not all be shut down at once and say the work will take between one and two weeks to complete. They could not provide exact dates for the closings. Crossings scheduled for repairs are: 700 East just north of 150 South, 150 South East of 700 East, 200 South west of State Road 23 and 225 South East of State Road 23.

Starke County Highway Department Stretches Road Repair Dollars

Starke County Highway Department employees recently made asphalt and patch material for seasonal road repairs.

Starke County Highway Department employees recently made asphalt and patch material for seasonal road repairs.

Starke County Highway Department crews are ready to begin chip sealing roads. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners they will start in the Koontz Lake. He says they’ve made more than 6,000 tons of asphalt and more than 445 tons of patching material. Continue reading

Bid for Emergency Bridge Repair Comes in Over Budget

The lone bid to replace this bridge over the Yellow River on 700 East came in significantly over budget.

The lone bid to replace this bridge over the Yellow River on 700 East came in significantly over budget.

The lone bid to fix the bridge on Starke County Road 700 East over the Yellow River came in significantly higher than county officials had anticipated. LaPorte Construction bid $106,872 for the emergency repair. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says that figure is between $50,000 and $60,000 more than he had budgeted for the work. As a result, repairs that were to begin today and be finished by Aug. 15 have been delayed indefinitely. Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Set to Open Bridge Bids

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Commissioners will open bids this morning for work on three bridges and award at least one contract so work can begin immediately. A previously announced timeline for the emergency repair of the bridge over the Yellow River on County Road 700 East calls for construction to start tomorrow and conclude on Aug. 15. The road has been closed since a tree floating down the river struck the bridge supports this spring. The commissioners will also open bids for the replacement of the bridges on 900 south just west of 100 West over Bogus Run and on 800 East over Eagle Creek, just north of 50 South. No timeline was given for those repairs. Continue reading

Timeline Announced for Emergency Bridge Repair

The Starke County Commissioners will open bids to replace the bridge over 700 East at their July 7 meeting.

The Starke County Commissioners will open bids to replace the bridge over 700 East at their July 7 meeting.

Starke County Road 700 East north of State Road 8 should be open again to traffic by mid-August. That’s the time frame outlined by Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler. He presented plans for what he calls a “pretty straightforward fix” to the bridge damaged earlier this year by a tree floating down the river that struck the supports. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Department Releases Road Maintenance List

The Starke County Highway Department will be busy throughout the summer making improvements to 145 miles of county roads. Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler says the projects are based on the PASER, or Pavement, Surface, Evaluation and Rating, system and average daily traffic.

“All of the townships are well-represented on the list,” Ritzler told the county commissioners. “The San Pierre area now has the most roads. Most of the roads we added we’re adding in that area because they had the lowest PASER ratings and were a little under-represented on the previous list, and now we’ve put those on there. We’re probably going to chip-seal all of the roads in town and probably a couple of the roads out west of there.” Continue reading

No Immediate Opening Date for 700 East Bridge in Starke County

The bridge on 700 East north of State Road 8 may be closed longer than originally thought, according to Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler.

The emergency design for the bridge that was damaged by a tree in the river is coming along. There is a slight hiccup in the process as permits are needed to make further repairs on the bridge and the approval of those permits could take some time. Ritzler explained that the bridge was damaged much more than once the area was surveyed a little closer. Three pillars and a spreading beam need to be replaced along with the removal of some asphalt on the bridge.

Continue reading

Starke County Officials Appoint Committee to Study Wheel Tax

Starke County Council members want more information about proposed wheel tax rates, types of vehicles that would be taxed and how any funds generated would be used for road improvements before making any decision about implementing such a tax. County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler will chair a committee comprised of council members Marvin McLaughlin, Freddie Baker and Bob Sims and Commissioner Kathy Norem. After they discuss the details, a public input meeting will be scheduled to further explain the process. Ritzler has streamlined the highway department’s operations since taking over but says efficiency can only go so far. “Our limiting factor is the oil and stone that we use to improve roads. We have a certain amount of funding sources, we used them all. The only way of increasing is a user tax that is available to us, a user fee. 47 of the 92 counties in Indiana have it. Of the counties that don’t have it, many have an additional source of funding that’s not available to us, and that’s riverboat gambling money. We are in the bottom fifth of road conditions in the state,” Ritzler told the council. Continue reading

Starke County Highway Department Prepares for Bridge Replacement

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen “Rik” Ritzler

The cost of plowing snow during the worst winter in nearly 40 years forced the Starke County Highway Department to dramatically scale back its road maintenance budget. However, Superintendent Rik Ritzler says they’re still moving forward with scheduled bridge replacements.

“The bridge replacement plan was not affected by winter operations,” Ritzler told the commissioners during their most recent meeting. “We have enough money in the CEDIT account both presently and budgeted if that’s not touched. If that’s touched, it will be jeopardized.”

Continue reading

Starke County Commissioners Bless Wheel Tax Exploration

starke-county-courthouseStarke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler has the blessing of the county commissioners to look into other sources of funds for road improvements.

He told them last week the county does not presently qualify for a lot of money available from the state because there’s no roadway user tax in place and said he would like to talk to the council about the costs and benefits of a wheel tax at various levels. Ritzler says counties that collect a wheel tax have some of the best roads in the state because all of the money that is collected is used to maintain and improve them.

Continue reading

Winter Expenses Force County to Slash Road Repair Budget

Starke County Highway Superintendent Stephen "Rik" Ritzler

Starke County Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler

The harshest winter in nearly four decades is putting a squeeze on the Starke County Highway Department’s road repair budget. Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the county commissioners his drivers spent 94 days plowing more than 150,000 miles. They also logged 35,000 more miles in support roles. “We used  over 44,500 gallons of diesel and a lot of gasoline,” Ritzler said.  “We did not run out of salt or sand, as many local agencies did. As a result, we did not have to pay the premium prices for added material. Our salt cost was $48 per ton throughout the winter. The counties that had to get extra had to get it for over $200 a ton, so we were lucky there.”

Ritzler says the Starke County Highway Department will be able to absorb the overtime and fuel costs in the existing budget. “We did have a cushion built in. Unfortunately the pillow is now gone. We have no extra money. We were hoping to use that extra money to add to the road improvement program and to make that where we could improve the roads. We’re not going to be able to do that now without added funds. That’s the greatest effect. It’s going to affect our road program a little bit. We’ll still be able to stay at a maintaining level that we did last year, but we won’t be able to get to an improvement level,” Ritzler said.

The initial 2014 road improvement recommendation list contained 191 miles of improvements at a cost of nearly $1.4 million. A combination of state-mandated budget cuts and winter snow removal costs slashed that to 138 miles of improvements at a cost of $750,000. Ritzler says some of the major improvements were also downgraded due to a lack of money.

Starke County Highway Department Remains Busy

 The Starke County Highway Department continues to stay busy with plowing efforts, as Superintendent Rik Ritzler yesterday morning told the commissioners that his department spent most of the month of February plowing, with 17 days of the month spent clearing roads. He said five of the days were spent hauling material, with the other days used for general maintenance.

Over the past two months, Ritzler said, the county has plowed nearly 100,000 miles, building a total cost of $561,000. Fortunately, he said they did spend less in February – but that may just have been because the month was shorter, Ritzler explained. Continue reading

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