Whether Boone County will provide medically necessary dust control on rural gravel roads won’t be decided until next month.
Usually the deadline to request dust control is April 1, County Highway Superintendent Rick Carney told the Boone County Commissioners last week.
“We have quite a few,” he said.
Commissioner Charles Eaton asked Carney to report on the need and whether money is available; Carney will also check with other counties about their dust control policies.
Money for dust control comes from the highway department’s account that buys salt and sand. This year, because of a mild winter, Carney has a surplus in that fund. He must still buy nearly 200 tons of salt, under terms of a contract with the state highway department. “I should have $60,000, give or take,” in the salt line-item after he buys the salt, Carney said.
Private contractors are paid to do the applications, Carney said.
“I have mixed feelings on this,” Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said.
Although people wanting dust control must provide a letter saying the request has a medical basis, in some cases, “what we received last year, apart from medical issues, were just a doctor signing something saying, it would be nice to have dust control for your house,” he said. “We have talked about having a better way to discern who should get this.”
“And then,” Commissioner Marc Applegate said, “that puts us in the position of having to be medical experts.”
Although “a lot of people” have legitimate reasons to ask for dust control, Carney said, there are “a lot of people who don’t,” including one request because the property-owner’s horses were allergic to dust.
Carney said there are three anti-dust methods: soybean oil, an asphalt emulsion or a calcium chloride mixture. The county pays a contractor about $800 for an application, he said. A do-it-yourself job can cost $200 to $300, with the ingredients available at a grain elevator, Carney said.
“I’d just as soon, since we’ve got it (dust control) stopped, we not start,” Carney said. “I do understand there are a lot of people ... who really need it and can’t afford it,” he said “How do you decipher who’s who?”
The Boone County Council did not approve any funding for medical dust control in 2011, because of a budget squeeze that forced elected officials and department superintendents to make painful cuts in their expenses.
Part of the highway department’s cuts were necessary because a severe winter, what then-Highway Superintendent Tom Kouns had called the worst freeze-thaw cycle he had ever seen, chewed up the highway department’s salt funding.
In 2010 Kouns had received 105 dust control requests by mid-March, he told the county council.
In 2009 Kouns spent $23,000 of the $30,000 the council took from an economic development fund to cover dust control costs. When he asked for extra money, Kouns had told the council he had 54 dust control requests, but only enough money for 11 applications.
In 2008, the county paid Central Paving, Inc., $25,000 to make 118 dust control applications.