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WEST UNION — When Fayette County went from trading recycled bridge planks for straw to auctioning the planks and purchasing the straw, it cost them, about $4,700 according to Fayette County Engineer Joel Fantz.

The subject of straw for the County was brought up in a Fayette County Union newspaper letter to the editor written by Jeff Yauslin of West Union published on July 28.

Yauslin was under the impression that the County had made a payment to a trucking company for $2,872.80, and wondered if that was for a load of straw round bales from South Dakota. If so, Yauslin wondered why the straw was not purchased locally.

The County Road Department uses straw bales as required to minimize erosion, and as a ground cover to help seeds germinate, Fantz told the Fayette County Newspapers on Monday. The Union initiated the inquiry.

“Between Fayette County Roadside Management and the Road Department we have likely been purchasing straw from various sources for 30 plus years,” Fantz told the Daily Register, to an inquiry about time frames on Tuesday.

Fantz said straw used for road construction had previously been bartered for through local farmers, in trade for old bridge planks that they could use to build feed bunks and so forth.

“We are a large county that does a lot of work,” Fantz told the Daily Register. “We purchase bales from multiple sources, have bartered for bales, have been given rotting bales by farmers at no cost, etc. over the years. What we are primarily concerned with when we purchase supplies is that we get the best value for our Fayette County taxpayers who are ultimately paying the bills.

“The planks that were traded were in rough condition and contained all of the heavy shank nails, etc. The County retained the heavier wooden stringers for use in lining our salt and sand sheds,” Fantz told the Fayette County Newspapers on Monday.

“Recently, in order to confirm that this exchange was in the County taxpayer's interest, the Road Department took bridge plank to Sweeney Auction Service and received $585.35 for the planks at auction,” Fantz said.

“The Sweeney Auction was on [March] 30, 2021,” Fantz told the Daily Register in follow-up. “Straw purchases were on [March] 30, 2021 and [June] 22, 2021.”

“We kept track of the labor costs to pull the nails and of the hauling costs to bring the plank to auction. The cost to prepare the plank for auction amounted to $2,754,” Fantz continued. “A typical semi-load of straw costs between $2,500-$2,900 depending on the number of tons on the load. As we didn’t exchange the plank for the bales this is another cost that was incurred by selling the plank.

“Selling the bridge plank at auction actually cost the taxpayers $4,700 more than bartering for the local bales,” Fantz said. “This cost analysis confirmed that the past practice was truly in the county taxpayer’s interest.”

Fantz couldn’t say whence the recent purchaser sourced the straw.

“Our past exchange of straw bales for plank was a local farmer. I would presume those [bales] were local as well. Our recent purchase of straw was from an Iowa company. I have no vision into the straw business and do not know where the Iowa company actually sourced the straw from that we received. No doubt they buy straw from many sources,” he said.

“Trading is a great system, I think we should go back to that,” said Supervisor Janell Bradley.


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