The Starke County Commissioners took time Monday night to praise Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler on his recent recognition of being named Outstanding County Highway Superintendent in 2019. The award was given during last week’s 61st Annual Association of Indiana Counties Conference at the French Lick Resort.
Ritzler was quick to say that it was a department and county effort.
“The reasons listed for me getting that were done by you guys, the council, county attorney, the previous auditor, the current auditor, and all of our workers,” explained Ritzler. “They put a lot of hard work into that. They were the ones that did the work that they were listing when the award was given. It’s quite a good thing for the entire county.”
Ritzler discussed the Roadway Asset Management Plan and the approach the county uses to determine road projects. He noted that this sets the county above others as they can maintain the county’s 1,400 miles of roads without using any other money but what is budgeted in the highway department’s funds. That isn’t the case in other counties.
In 2012, the county paved about 10 miles of county roads. This year, the highway department is close to paving 90 miles of roads, which is due to updated plans under Ritzler’s direction. In addition, Ritzler pointed out that the county’s overall rating of roads on the PASER scale has increased from 4.23 to 6.2. The state’s average is 5.9.
Along with the county’s efforts, Commissioner Kathy Norem didn’t hesitate to give Ritzler credit for the award.
“You have got to be the very best highway superintendent we have ever seen, not only in Starke County, but probably in Northwest Indiana and probably the whole state! That’s why you got that award. I can’t believe how lucky we are,” stated Norem.
On top of the 1,400 miles of roads the county highway maintains, the employees also take care of 57 bridges.
The department currently has 26 full-time employees as well as a seasonal mowing crew.
Photo provided by Starke County Highway Department