A small debate over culverts and roads at the Natrona County Commission meeting Tuesday underscored the statewide economic downturn's effects on local governments.

Before the commission considered the consent agenda, which usually is approved without comment, Rob Hendry asked that a proposed $179,000 contract be separated from it for discussion.

The contract was for the installation of two 10-foot culverts and accompanying earthwork and riprap to be installed along Lone Bear Creek, which runs under Lone Bear Road, in the northeastern area of the county.

Road and Bridge Department Superintendent Mike Haigler told commissioners smaller culverts, which drain a 17.1-square-mile area, had washed out before, requiring expensive repairs.

Haigler said the culverts would be paid from a fund restricted to roads.

However, Hendry said the Legislature had just cut state support for all local governments from $183 million two years ago to $105 million for the next biennium beginning July 1.

Even though the $179,000 proposed for the culverts is restricted to roads, the county would be better off saving that and applying it to future road maintenance, Hendry said. "In 10 years, we'll be damned glad to have $200,000."

Commissioners Matt Keating and John Lawson, a civil engineer, said they understood Hendry's perspective, but said staying with smaller culverts means risking having to spend more later if they wash out again.

"It's worth the $179,000 investment," Lawson said.

Hendry understood where they were coming from, but wanted to remind them about the state's continuing economic woes and how they will affect local governments.

"We got half as much as the last biennium," he said. "The next time, we may get nothing."

The commission approved the contract.

In other business, the county commission without discussion approved the 25-year agreement between the county and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to manage the Alcova, Gray Reef and Pathfinder reservoirs.

The commission twice before had considered then tabled the agreement to rework some of the language about the agreement that allows the county to manage the areas around the reservoirs for recreational purposes, and collect fees to make improvements.