County board OKs first step for Dewey-Fisher Road work; Kurtz to seek chair

URBANA — The first step on an approximately $6 million reconstruction of the Dewey-Fisher Road in northwestern Champaign County was approved Thursday by the Champaign County Board.

Also Thursday, the first of what could be multiple candidates for county board chairman announced his interest in the job.

Champaign Democrat Alan Kurtz, a member of the board for four years, announced his candidacy. The current chairman, C. Pius Weibel, also a Champaign Democrat, did not run for re-election.

The board will choose a new chair in early December, likely from among Democrats, who will hold a 12-10 majority on the new board.

Kurtz, 71, said his experience would enable him to lead the board.

"I've had good practice as vice chair and chair of (the environment and land use committee), and chair of the Democratic caucus," he said. "I've passed a number of pieces of legislation. I've been able to work with both sides of the aisle."

Kurtz cited his work on a land resource-management plan, a wind-farm ordinance, and funding for a help desk at the county courthouse.

Meanwhile, less than half of the funding for the Dewey-Fisher Road project is available, county engineer Jeff Blue told the board. As planned, the 11-mile-long two-lane highway would be rebuilt between its intersection with Olympian Drive in north Champaign, where it is called North Mattis Avenue, on the south, and U.S. 136 on the north.

The county already has $1.6 million in federal funding for the project, and on Thursday, it tentatively set aside $1 million in motor-fuel tax money for it. Blue said he also hopes to get more federal money for safety improvements to the road.

Construction for the project is tentatively set to begin in 2014, but engineering and right-of-way acquisition will start in 2013.

The county board also approved the replacement of two bridge structures on the Dewey-Fisher Road, possibly as early as next year. One of the spans is estimated to cost about $850,000 and the other about $650,000, Blue said. The steel supports under the existing bridges are beginning to rust and deteriorate, he said.

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