Franklin County Courthouse

By Geoff Folsom

Due to rising steel prices, Franklin County’s culvert materials provider is backing out of the quote it provided the county.

In a letter to county highway department superintendent Bill Carroll, officials with the Jefferson City-based Metal Culverts Inc. wrote that the steel industry is seeing unprecedented price increases and restricting the availability of steel.

“Metal Culverts Inc. has received multiple steel price increases since the first of the year, making it impossible for us to maintain our Nov. 12, 2020, culvert quote,” Rackers wrote.

The price of a ton of hot-rolled steel has increased from $715 in November 2020 to $1,268 in March 2021, according to information provided by Rackers. “This is a historic increase for one year, yet has taken place in only four months,” he wrote.

Prices Metal Culverts pays from the steel mills also are subject to change without notice, Rackers wrote. He invited the county to continue to inquire on a per-order basis.

“We value and appreciate your business and look forward to serving you this year,” Rackers wrote.

Commissioners voted 3-0 to terminate their contract with Metal Culverts at their Tuesday, April 27, meeting.

While Metal Culverts will still be listed as a county vendor, the county will have the option to use the company or someone else, Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said. “What that means is we can go out and seek the lowest, most practical bid for these goods and services,” Brinker said.

Steel-intensive manufacturing has come roaring back after businesses were shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but steel producers have been more careful about ramping up production, according to The Fabricator metal news website. Steel demand continues to outpace supply.

Adding to the cost of building have been an increase in lumber prices, which have risen 35 percent this year.

Also approved Tuesday were:

* CARES Act requests for the Meramec Valley R-III School District, for $353,000, and Our Lady of Lourdes School, for $39,250. The county also spent $7,225, using CARES funds, for a new printer for the Franklin County Health Department from GFI Digital Inc. The county said it is needed because of the department’s expanded vaccination efforts.

* A maintenance agreement for an X-ray inspection system from Smiths Detection. The agreement, not to exceed $4,262, is needed because the county is reopening the old courthouse for jury trials.