Letters to the Editor, April 20, 2003


Tony A. Connell
Special to Steamboat Pilot & Today

Truth About Asphalt Pricing

A recent letter to the editor by Pat Berka contained unfounded statements regarding asphalt prices charged by Connell Resources last year and this year. It is a complete misstatement (at best) that "prices pretty much doubled" when Elam removed their asphalt plant out of town early last summer and Connell Resources was the only asphalt supplier. For anyone interested in the facts, here are a few (for more, people are welcome to contact us).

Connell Resources did not increase prices for any quotations and proposals produced before or after Elam was in town. In fact, for all of last year, Connell Resources honored all of our written proposal prices throughout the year even though our two single highest cost items (petroleum-asphalt cement and gravel) had significant price increases from 2001.

We made more than 250 written proposals last year. If anyone, including Berka, can produce any of our written bids from last year where we "price gouged" and increased prices for that same scope of work by even 35 percent (not even the "doubling" Berka refers to) "after Elam removed their asphalt plant," we will do that job for free in 2003.

Connell supplied asphalt to the Colorado Department of Transportation and the city of Steamboat and all other maintenance entities at the same price in 2002 as 2001, even though our highest cost items jumped 17 percent following world oil price increases. Our basic gravel costs were increased at our pit during 2002 through the Routt County Special Review of our operation, which imposed more restrictions, limitations, and higher costs of operation to our current site.

Connell Resources operates fixed gravel pits in Routt and Larimer counties. In addition, I travel in Colorado and Wyoming bidding highway projects from a large number of gravel pits. The production limitations and unique special conditions added to Routt County gravel and asphalt operations are extremely costly, especially when compared to counties that are happy to see asphalt improvements to their infrastructure and place no barriers to operations.

The fact that there is only one asphalt producer in Routt County is a result of total market demand and the timing of that demand. Our production for last year was only about one-half of our peak production in the late 1990s and only 19 percent utilization of our asphalt plant production capability.

My forecast is that the total market for asphalt this year in the Steamboat Springs area will be only 27 percent of the peak period in the late 1990s.

We have been told Routt County Road and Bridge and Colorado Department of Transportation are not doing any asphalt overlays this year. If people want a reason as to why there is only one asphalt plant in Routt County, they should look at the total demand and the fact that the timing of the remaining demand typically occurs in a short window between August and October.

Comparative pricing isn't easy for customers in the asphalt business because of the variety of businesses selling a range of quality that isn't easily seen by most people until a year or years later. Connell Resources tries to provide preparation work that drains properly and has an adequate depth of gravel and asphalt.

"Gypsy" paving companies go door to door selling "extra" asphalt or miracle cures for deteriorating pavement in need of reconstruction, not a sealcoat.

The bottom line is that "cheap is dear" for most paving projects. In fact, poor asphalt paving and seal-coating jobs are one of the top five home improvement scams according to the Better Business Bureau. It's an issue that Connell Resources constantly deals with in educating our customers. Scams include:

n Completed asphalt depth less than necessary (we specify 3" or 4").

n Few, or no, drainage improvements.

n Little or no gravel under asphalt (we generally specify 12" or more).

n Placing cold (below 280 degrees) asphalt and rolling with rollers that are too small to compact the asphalt properly, thereby failing prematurely.

n Selling diluted sealcoat that temporarily paints the asphalt, but wears off in less than a year.

n Selling sealcoat as a repair to cracked and alligatored pavement it is only a temporary cosmetic, and not structural, improvement.

n Patching that is not cut out and removed to the full depth of the existing pavement and also does not include repair of the failing subgrade or other reason causing the failure. This is easy to see since surface patches peal off shortly after placement.

Since my employees and I all live here, and because we have a long-range view of service to our customers, Connell Resources endeavors to provide quality, long-lasting infrastructure to Routt County regardless of market conditions and competition. Reading innuendo from uninformed letter-writers is no help at all. Please recognize our efforts to be a quality provider of services and an important member of the business community.

Tony A. Connell is vice president of Connell Resources LLC.

Jody Patten
Special to Steamboat Pilot & Today

Montessori Ready to Move Forward

On behalf of the board of Steamboat Springs Montessori Charter School, I want to thank all of those in the Steamboat Springs community who repeatedly encouraged us throughout the past year to continue fighting for a public Montessori school. The State Board of Education's strong support of our school at our second and final appeal in Denver this week endorsed what we know to be true.

This school represents an incredible opportunity for the children of our community, if only our School Board will allow them to attend it.

Once the public education system sees what can be accomplished in a collaborative, individualized and compassionate learning environment we feel that they will ultimately embrace our school as a vital member of our public education system in Steamboat Springs.

The Colorado Charter Law and case law in our state are clearly on the side of providing parents with choice in public education.

Our district has now been ordered by the State Board of Education to approve our charter application, and the next step is to negotiate an operating contract. That contract can and should protect the interests of the school district.

Our School Board seems to be forgetting that it has a legal and a moral obligation to provide for the educational needs of all the students in the district, including those in our new district charter school, which means allowing us to go forward with opening this fall. It is our sincere hope and intent to open this new school this fall.

We already have identified highly qualified and experienced teaching and administrative staff, are ready to negotiate a lease at Colorado Mountain College, and plan to run enrollment in May. Our grant funding of $182,000 is in place through the Colorado Department of Education, and the federal No Child Left Behind Act supported by President Bush and all our representatives from Northwest Colorado. This money will pay for materials for at least three full classrooms as well as teacher training and many facilities improvements.

We expect to receive even more startup grant monies earmarked for early childhood education for our preschoolers. To realize any of the above goals, we need to have a signed contract with the school district, and quickly if we expect to open the school this August. It is our hope that our School Board will gracefully follow the state board's clear directive.

We would welcome any of your comments and suggestions. You may e-mail us at info@ssmontessori.org. Our Web site has much more information on the school. www.ssmontessori.org.

"Someone has to keep trying to do what most would call the impossible, so that the maximum possible can be achieved." (Author unknown)

Jody Patten is president of the Steamboat Springs Montessori Charter School Steering Committee.


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