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“Squeaking wheel” approach hampers road work

Staff writer

Taking a “squeaking wheel” approach to road conditions is not an appropriate management tool, members of a county road committee told commissioners Monday.

The committee of township officials, put together in June to discuss road maintenance and come back to commissioners with recommendations, pointed out numerous weaknesses in the county’s handling of road maintenance. The committee was originally formed on the premise that townships should take responsibility for road maintenance, but that’s not the recommendation they made Monday.

“The ‘squeaking wheel syndrome’ does not allow for all the citizens of Marion County to be heard, nor is it an appropriate management tool,” said committee member Linda Peters.

Peters said that approach causes frustration to get out of control.

“We recently saw that at the Marion County Lake, where 500 people showed up to complain,” Peters said.

One of the issues facing the county is that while its number of road miles has not shrunk, the number of employees to maintain and improve roads has shrunk. Additional blades are needed, Peters said.

One committee member said they recognize that equipment costs money and county residents “howl” when the mill levy goes up.

Another committee member said the county has not lived up to its responsibility to cities.

Commission chairman Randy Dallke disagreed, saying the county has given help when cities have requested it.

The county has a plan, but few know what the plan is and where it is happening, Peters said.

Peters said the county needs better communication on road issues as well as better road maintenance. She recommended someone be assigned to meet with townships and trustees, then assist townships to develop short-term and long-range plans.

“We believe this would begin to start the healing process with the frustration of many of the concerns,” Peters said.

“I think you’ve done a fabulous job,” commissioner Dianne Novak told committee members.

On a different road-related issue, commissioners heard a complaint from a resident who lives at 220th and US-77.

Trucks hauling gravel from a closed quarry to a farm operation near Lincolnville have passed her house 1,000 times over the last month and a half, Melissa Ziemmermann said.

“The dust is insane,” Ziemmermann said. “The amount of overloaded trucks — they’re losing gravel off the back of them.”

Ziemmermann said her son, who has asthma, has been sick and her horse has gotten sick from drinking dirty water.

She showed commissioners a video of a truck driving past her house on 220th. She also showed photos of damage to the road.

“I took those pictures this morning,” she said. “We need to stop this, it’s completely insane. Help us avoid this from happening again.”

Rocky Hett, who owns the closed quarry, said the county profited from the quarry for more than 20 years and nobody complained about dusting during that time.

Gary Diepenbrock, the farmer who had the rock hauled to his property, said Ziemmermann should have watered along the edge of her property and the road to cut down the dust.

He also contended that the trucks could not have been going as fast as she said, because they had to stop before entering the highway.

Ziemmermann said the trucks use Jake brakes to slow down before the highway.

Diepenbrock said there weren’t 1,000 trucks.

“It was eight trucks 1,000 times,” Diepenbrock said. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. I think I could give $1,000 to everybody for Christmas and someone would complain.”

In other matters, commissioners:

  • Approved a contract with Kirkham Michael engineering company to oversee the haul route for the Diamond Vista wind farm project;
  • Agreed with a suggestion from Matt Meyerhoff, USDA conservation resources district manager, to talk with Kansas State University students about developing a management program for the county lake;
  • Voted to give $150 Christmas bonuses to full-time and non-seasonal part-time employees who worked at least 500 hours and are still employed;
  • Voted to accept bids for county counselor for 2018;
  • Discussed documents related to the Diamond Vista wind farm project with attorney Patrick Hughes and Nick Coil, Tradewind Energy development manager;
  • Heard a monthly report from Emergency Medical Services director Ed Debesis; and
  • Reviewed annual department head evaluations.

Last modified Dec. 20, 2017

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