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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lakes HD Restructures In Face Of Poor Economy

Dear Coeur d'Alene Press, I love you for your informative stories and your often humorous reader comments, but your practice of only posting stories on your website that made the front page makes it hard for me to link to some of your stories. For instance, the article that ran today is not on your website. It had applicable information though to what we do at KMPO, so I will attempt to summarize it:

Facing dwindling funding sources and escalating costs, Lakes Highway District officials have restructured the agency to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars. Commissioner Marv Lekstrum says the restructuring is an effort to be more efficient and that they're being forced to get creative in the face of the poor economy.

Revenue from a users tax on fuel is down 21% according to Lekstrum because drivers are finding other ways to get around or driving more fuel-efficient cars. A property tax increase hasn't helped much either and the district's current purchasing power is down 42% since 2000.

Add to that a 34% increase in costs due to the rising price of asphalt and fuel for equipment. As a result, the district has reduced its 15-member road crew by five, with three of the employees retiring early. Maintenance work is now covered by contracted workers, which saves on insurance and overtime.

The highway district also recently hired an engineer tech and engineer to save money on work that was previously contracted out. Those changes have saved about $378,000 and between $300,000 and $1 million was saved on three recent road rehabilitation projects because of contracting out labor and keeping engineering in-house.

The district has reduced its clerical staff by 7%, saving about $23,000, and reduced the work week to four days, all while rewarding the remaining employees with a 2% raise.

Other highway districts contacted aren't following the Lakes model at this time.

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