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County backs off of hiring an engineer

Staff writer

Marion County’s brief return to having an engineer supervise its road and bridge department appears to be coming to an end.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to restructure the department so that it would be led, as commissioner Kent Becker put it, by “an administrative specialist with a working knowledge of road and bridges.”

The vote came after a brief closed-door session for “personnel evaluation” with road and bridge supervisor Steve Hudson.

Commissioner Randy Dallke questioned whether an engineer would be disqualified from seeking the position.

“An engineer — a trained engineer,” commissioner Jonah Gehring said to chuckles from his colleagues, “could still apply, but there might be a compensation adjustment.”

County clerk Tina Spencer was directed to draft a revised job description to be used in advertising for a person to replace Brice Goebel, who submitted his resignation May 8.

“The stress of the position.” Goebel said afterward, “has become too much for me and my family.”

His resignation will take effect July 5. The county is not yet advertising for a replacement. It is, however, advertising for two office staff positions, one of which might be eliminated in any restructuring.

Applicants for that position might be redirected to other county openings if that should happen, commissioners decided.

Bridge repairs and closures

Earlier, they voted to accept Goebel’s recommendation that they consider formally acting to close two disused and unsafe bridges:

  • The so-called Lovers Lane bridge over Clear Creek east of Centre High School, on Wagon Wheel Rd. north of 310th Rd.
  • A bridge over Mud Creek on a closed section of Old Mill Rd., washed out by flooding in 2019, between 260th and 270th Rds.

State rules encouraging counties to take action on dangerous bridges could award the county as much as $50,000 per bridge for formally closing them, Goebel said.

That money, in turn, could be used to pay the 10% local share of costs to repair or replace several other bridges that he proposed be fixed using a combination of state grants.

Commissioners approved his application for those grants.

The two bridges being considered for closure would not have to be demolished — a key consideration, especially for the Lovers Lane bridge, a stone-arch structure with historic and sentimental value.

It was unclear at Monday’s meeting whether the county could receive another $50,000 for closing a bridge it formally vacated earlier in the meeting.

Goebel said he had told it might not qualify, because commissioners voted to vacate the road to and from it, not just the bridge.

But he said he would seek clarification.

The bridge and its surrounding roadway were the subject of a formal hearing Monday.

After no objections were raised, commissioners voted to vacate a section of Eagle Rd. in Lehigh Township, from 150 feet north of 220th Rd. to 20 feet south of 230th Rd., because of the disrepair of the seldom-used bridge there, which would be costly to bring up to standards.

Easements will be preserved, a key concern of neighboring landowners, but landowners may now fence down the middle of the former road if desired.

“This is a much better proposal from the last one,” Dallke said.

But he questioned whether vacating roads was going to become a policy.

Becker seemed to sum up other commissioners’ sentiment by stating that he would oppose all road closings unless there were special circumstances like the dangerous, disused, and costly-to-repair bridge on Eagle Rd.

Last modified May 24, 2023

 

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