Dial the clock back several years and you will find Dubuque County government mired in issues related to county roads.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Dubuque County officials endeavored to upgrade gravel roads to hard-surface roads as much as possible. County supervisors touted the investment as safety and efficiency measures that would save lives and time. Residents who regularly drove those rural roads were more than happy to leave gravel in the dust. But as those hard-surface roads aged and required repair or replacement, cracks began to appear in the wisdom of that approach.

Suddenly, the burden came to bear on the county engineer, tasked with the daunting duty of maintaining hundreds of miles of hard-surface roads in the face of tightened budgets and slowed revenue streams. By 2014, Dubuque County was spending more on roads than any other county in the state, even though it ranked 69th of the 99 counties for miles of county roads. It did, however, rank third in miles of paved roads and 98th in the miles of gravel roads.

Then, six years ago, Dubuque County began working with engineer Anthony Bardgett, and good things began to happen. Road projects were reviewed and prioritized. Work was getting done more efficiently. While quality roads are still a chief priority for county residents, the din of complaints around the issue have quelled.

All this happened with an engineering team that is shared with another county. Since 2015, neighboring Delaware and Dubuque county boards of supervisors have been splitting the services and salary of Bardgett — 70% on Dubuque County, 30% on Delaware County. A year later, the counties entered another agreement to split the services of Assistant Engineer Craig Davis, split 60% on Delaware County, 40% on Dubuque County.

Now county supervisors are considering adding another sharing agreement to the mix. Delaware’s former county surveyor retired recently, and Bardgett proposes that Dubuque County’s surveyor, Wyatt Anderson, be made full time and split his time the same as Davis does.

Supervisors are still mulling the issue, but a sharing agreement sounds like an excellent idea. Taxpayers should demand to see more of this kind of collaboration in government. What better way to save money than by sharing resources? The TH Editorial Board has long advocated for governmental bodies to look for opportunities to share personnel and seek efficiencies. Here’s a great example of how that can work.

Bardgett and county supervisors — past and present — get credit for being open to the idea and putting it to the test. That it has worked out well for the residents of both counties is a testament to the fruits of collaborative efforts.

Let’s hope this is a blueprint for how shared resources can prove positive for both sides — and for taxpayers. Other counties should take note.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

Recommended for you