By JIMMY LAWTON
CANTON – Despite the local savings at the gas pumps, county and town highway superintendents are not seeing a decreased price for oil-based paving materials.
Canton Highway Superintendent Terry Billings said the price of oil used in asphalt products fluctuates less often and operates on separate scale than the oil used to make gasoline and diesel fuels. Most of the savings on gas and diesel are a competitive phenomenon, unrelated to the barrel oil price, he added.
While the highway department isn’t saving money on asphalt, Billings said he is content that the price has not significantly risen over the past year.
This year, the town paid $51.06 per ton for type six top, the asphalt used to pave the majority of roads. Last year the price per ton was $50.96, he said.
“It’s up a little, but it’s holding pretty steady,” he said.
Although lower fuel prices haven’t translated to lower asphalt costs, Billings says saving at the pumps helped the highway reduce fuel costs in a small way.
He said last year at this time, the department was paying $3.39 for diesel and $2.97 for gasoline. This year diesel is at $3.11 while gas is up to $2.99.
St. Lawrence County Highway Superintendent Toby Bogart said the story is the same at the county level.
He said asphalt is bid at a base price in February and fluctuates on an oil-index price. He said the base bid this year was $45.95 per ton, while last year’s was $43.40 per ton. He said many of the towns including Canton use this base bid.
The adjustment, which brings the price to $51.06 per ton for July, is based on a formula that uses the previous year’s average of $549 per barrel and the current oil price of approximately $620 per barrel.
Bogart says the price fluctuates each month and the change is factored on top of the base bid. He said, averaged, prices are up $1 to $3 per ton.
“We are at the mercy of the oil companies, and we aren’t seeing a savings,” he said. “In May the price dropped off a bit, but we’ve lost almost everything we gained.”
Potsdam Highway Superintendent John Keheler said his department was able to stay under budget this year as most of his paving was done in early June, while the asphalt price was still down, but that won’t translate into more roadwork as other costs have increased.
“We got most of it out of the way when the price was low, I guess it’s gone back up some now and we still have some patching to do, but we were able to stay under budget because it didn’t jump up as high as we projected,” he said.
And while all three superintendents said the lower fuel prices have helped a little, the largest annual increase in cost has stemmed from equipment maintenance, which has offset what little savings they have found.
Billings said rising costs in fuel and asphalt are nothing new, but parts and equipment are climbing at a rapid pace as well.
“When I started in 1994 parts and equipment were costing us about $3,500 a month. Today, we are nearly doubled and we really aren’t doing anything different. It’s just basic maintenance stuff,” he said.
Although highway departments have not gained much from the decreased fuel prices, Billings said he is still glad to see them down.
“I can’t tell you we are seeing any real significant savings. The biggest thing, right now, is that the gas stations in Canton are giving us a break and that is good for everybody.”