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Road from Ogema to White Earth will be rebuilt this year

Road improvement projects in north-central Becker County are moving forward, in spite of higher-than-projected bids because of high oil and fuel costs.

The reconstruction of a 4.5-mile stretch of highway from Ogema to White Earth village will cost $2.6 million, nearly $500,000 more than the engineer's estimate of last year.

A related project, resurfacing a six-mile stretch of County Road 34 from White Earth village east to Kay's Corner at the junction of County Road 34 and County Road 158, will cost about $816,000 -- 18 percent over the engineer's estimate.

The higher bids were not a surprise, since the same thing is happening with construction projects everywhere because of high oil, fuel and asphalt costs, said County Engineer Brad Wentz.

"Everybody is seeing about a 20 percent increase in the cost of road construction projects," he said.

A great demand for asphalt shingles because of hurricane damage last year has forced up the price of asphalt "considerably," Wentz said. The price of steel has also risen, he noted.

The cost of a water transmission line from White Earth village to Ogema came in higher than projected.

It will cost $531,000 to construct the line to Ogema, which currently does not have a city water system. That's about $80,000 over last year's estimate.

In all, the total project will cost $4.3 million. Projected costs had been about $3.5 million.

The high construction costs may force the county to delay until next year a $600,000 overlay project on County Road 37, from Highway 34 to Shell Lake.

"We have some other large projects in the area that we are going to do next year, so it might be better to wait (to get a better price)," Wentz said.

The other projects are County Road 143 from County Road 34 to County Road 35; and County Road 124 from County Road 37 to Ponsford.

These two projects will be funded with federal "high priority" dollars obtained for Becker County by U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Wentz said.

The County Board last Tuesday opted to wait until its next meeting May 23 to decide whether to delay the County Road 37 project.

In other action, the board:

n Awarded the low bid of $1.93.5 cents per mile to Haug Hauling of Hawley to transport solid waste from the Becker County Transfer Station to a landfill in Fargo.

n Awarded the low bid of $17,255 for a grounds maintenance contract with the county park and recreation department to L&M Road Services of Lake Park. There were four other bidders.

n Discussed how to handle a labor crunch at the county extension office.

Because of a combination of factors causing employees to be absent -- from a medical leave to a honeymoon -- the office will not be staffed for about a week this month.

An employee with the regional extension office will be in the office this Friday and Monday to ensure that all 4-H members are correctly registered for a possible trip to the state fair.