Oil prices drive up asphalt costs


Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
Workers pave a portion of south Main Street in Cortland Thursday morning. Asphalt costs are being driven up by high oil prices, forcing municipalities to adjust plans for repaving streets.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Municipalities are adjusting their work schedules to compensate for rising asphalt costs as the pinch of high oil prices sets in for the second summer in a row.
The current price of bituminous asphalt is about $349 a ton, said Brian Renna, spokesman for Suit-Kote Corp., an asphalt manufacturer based in Cortlandville.
Bituminous asphalt is essentially the oil component of asphalt, as opposed to asphalt concrete. Asphalt concrete also consists of “aggregate,” which are the stones mixed in with oil component.
The price of asphalt concrete is around $50 per ton, according to Cortland Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Bistocchi.
“When you look at the price of asphalt, it has remained fairly consistent,” Renna said. “We’ve been in the industry for 85 years, and this (continual increase in price) is something we can’t ever really remember seeing.”
Crude oil hit a high of nearly $75 a barrel in April, and the price is now about $69 a barrel, according to the Energy Information Administration. Last June, crude oil peaked at around $61.
Because crude oil is such a volatile market, the government allows for an escalation rate to compensate for the changing oil prices between the time a project is put out to bid by a municipality and when the product is delivered.
Municipalities are responsible for paying the increase in cost.
“It’s unbelievable how high the escalation is right now,” Bistocchi said. “In May (of 2006), the escalation was $5.53 (per ton of asphalt), and in June now it’s $9.60.”
In June of 2005, the escalation rate was $2.72 per ton, and in May of 2004 the rate was 72 cents per ton.
Bistocchi said the price of asphalt concrete when these projects were put out to bid was about $40 a ton, but the price is now around $49 a ton, with the escalation rate figured in.
The city will use roughly 10,000 tons of asphalt concrete in its paving projects this year, Bistocchi said.
“We may have to cut a street or two so we can try to keep our budget under control,” Bistocchi said. “Right now we have 10 streets and three city parking lots scheduled for paving.”
DPW workers will repave Elizabeth, Van Hoesen, and Chestnut streets on the city’s north side, Bistocchi said, and Frederick Avenue, Argyle Place, Stewart Place and Union Street, all of which are perpendicular to south Main Street.
Bistocchi said that he also hopes to be able to pave Valley View Drive, unless the price of asphalt continues to rise.
The city bonded $600,000 last year for a three-year paving program, which has been divided evenly for each year. With the state contributing $196,000 annually, the budget for each year’s paving is about $400,000, Bistocchi said.
If the city paves all of its planned projects, Bistocchi said it would run $40,000 over budget. This money would have to be taken from the budget for next year.
“I targeted about 30 streets over three years, and I’m going to try to make that. By the end of the summer, I will have about 21 done,” Bistocchi said. “Next year will be the deciding factor. I might only get 27 or 28.”
Bistocchi said that the roads are repaved as needed, which is based on road condition and the volume of traffic.
Cortlandville is also feeling the oil crunch, said Highway Superintendent Carl Bush.
“The bulk of our job has to do with fuel, oils, asphalts. Anything to do with road work, when the price of crude oil goes up, all the costs go up,” Bush said. “We have a fixed dollar amount, so obviously because of the increases we’ll be paving one less street. People aren’t going to want to see their taxes go up … so probably it will amount to less service. We’ll be pinching pennies at the end of the year.”
Bush said Cortlandville would be repaving about five roads this season, of which not all will be paved along their entire lengths.
County Highway Superintendent Don Chambers said that in addition to finishing up the south Main Street/Page Green Road project, his department has also bid out the Page Green Road, Phase 2 project. Chambers is unsure of how far the contractor will get on the second phase this year.
The county will also be paving Kinney Gulf Road, Mayberry Road, Cold Brook Road, McLean Road, McLean Road Extension and Starr Road Extension.
“We anticipated a significant increase in oil prices when we put together the projects for this year. We felt the pinch last year,” Chambers said. “For example, we were paving on Mayberry Road last year and we did not pave as much as we had planned to.”
Chambers said the county will be recycling some pavement this year for the Kinney Gulf Road project. Recycling involves grinding up the road surface as finely as possible, adding fresh stone and oil and then repaving the road using the mixture.
“It’s an economical way to pave,” Chambers said. “We try to conserve and use our natural resources as wisely as we can.”



Groton man indicted

Douglas Jennings faces federal charges of child pornography.

Staff Reporter

BINGHAMTON — A Groton man was indicted Thursday morning by a U.S. District Court grand jury on three federal felony child pornography charges.
The jury indicted Douglas Jennings on one count each of _production of child pornography, receiving child pornography via the Internet and possession of child pornography.
Jennings, 41, of 379 Champlin Road is accused of having sexual contact with an 11-year-old family member during the past four years in Cortland and Tompkins counties.
It is the policy of the Cortland Standard to provide only as much information about crime victims as necessary to give a clear and accurate report of the facts.
The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department collaborated with the FBI and arrested Jennings June 12 after taking statements from Jennings and the girl. In statements to police, Jennings admitted to photographing and videotaping her in explicit and suggestive poses while she was undressed.
Miro Lovric, assistant U.S. attorney in Binghamton, said he has not determined the prison length sentence he will request, but said Jennings could see a 15-year minimum and a 30-year maximum sentence in federal prison.



County picks historian, mental health official

Staff Reporter

Cortland County has tapped two longtime area residents to fill the vacant positions of director of administrative services for the Mental Health Department and county historian.
The county Legislature voted unanimously to appoint Michael Kilmer, a lifelong Homer resident who has extensive experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities, to serve as mental health administrator.
The Legislature also unanimously appointed Jeremy Boylan, a copy editor and former reporter for the Cortland Standard, who has also lived much of his life in the Cortland area, to the historian position.
“I’m glad we were able to hire from within the community,” said County Administrator Scott Schrader. “To be able to bring in two young, home-grown guys who are talented and have fresh ideas is going to be a real asset to the county.”