Kankakee spends more per mile on roads than other local townships

May 13, 2018 GMT

Kankakee Township maintains far fewer miles of roads and spends considerably more per mile than other local townships.

In 2017, Kankakee took care of 13 miles of roads, spending $605,000, according to the township’s annual financial report. That works out to slightly less than $46,000 per mile.

Kankakee Township is in stark contrast to Sumner Township, which spent $49,000, or $954 per mile. And Norton Township, which maintains the most miles — 79 — and spent $78,000, amounting to just shy of $1,000 per mile.

One of the big arguments for townships is they can maintain roads for cheaper than county governments, which handle rural roads in much of the United States. Township advocates argue counties push up costs by giving pension and health benefits to workers. Even Kankakee Township’s supervisor, Larry Enz, made that argument recently.

Despite Enz’s contention, Kankakee Township spends more per mile on roads than Kankakee County. In 2016, the latest year available on the state comptroller’s website, the county spent $21,500 per mile.

Kankakee County’s costs per mile are higher than the county’s other 16 townships. County roads are more traveled than their township counterparts, meaning more maintenance is required, County Engineer Mark Rogers said.

“Our employees are union,” Rogers said. “We have some higher costs than townships would in the employment area.”

‘Improving roads’

James Tierney, Kankakee Township’s elected road commissioner, said all the township’s roads are paved, pushing up maintenance costs. He said the recent Skyline Road project, which included widening, curbs and gutters, added to road spending.

“We’re improving roads,” Tierney said. “The Skyline project was a huge improvement. We received great compliments, including those from outside the township. We’re trying to get something else in the works.”

He noted the township road district, which is made up of the commissioner and three other full-timers, essentially takes care of roads in the four unincorporated corners of its jurisdiction, saying it takes more time for maintenance when roads aren’t together.

He added the township handles brush pickup like the city of Kankakee.

The township’s employees get health and pension benefits.

‘Expect good roads’

Ranking second in spending among townships, Manteno Township’s road budget amounts to $12,000 per mile.

Manteno’s road commissioner, Ronald Meyer, said asphalt overlay projects push up costs. The township also maintains roads at the Diversatech campus, where an old mental hospital once stood, he said. This campus’s roads make up about a fifth of Manteno Township’s 46 miles.

“There’s quite a few businesses out there (at Diversatech), and there’s getting to be more houses. There are also tunnels that run underneath the roads and buildings. Those tunnels have been collapsing. It costs about $11,000 or $12,000 to repair that,” Meyer said.

All but a mile of the township’s roads are paved, which adds to its costs, he said. The township also maintains 109 streetlights.

“People move here from the city and expect good roads,” Meyer said. “We give them good service.”

Sumner Township Road Commissioner Steve Fick said his township, which is east of Manteno, could always use more money. But he said it can handle the maintenance of its more than 50 miles — a fifth of which are gravel. He and several part-timers do not get benefits.

“We don’t have the tax base other townships do,” he said. “Maybe our equipment is not as new as the others, but we make sure it’s workable. We don’t spend what we don’t have.”