County stuck on dirt roads
Half a mile away from Gary Diepenbrock’s house, on Vista Road northwest of Lincolnville, there is stretch of dirt road that was mired with four mud holes after recent rains. Three vehicles were stuck over a two-day period.
“With the conditions our back roads are getting in, it’s to the point where blading them is not the answer,” Diepenbrock said. “I think some will be impassible before too long.”
Diepenbrock discussed with Marion County Commissioners Friday plans for county dirt roads. They agreed that the roads needed to be reshaped with the crown of the road fitted to have water draining to either side.
Here is a fact agreed upon by Diepenbrock: the county does not have enough money or manpower to rebuild every dirt road to optimal condition. Road and Bridge Superintendent Randy Crawford said dirt roads are the lowest priority for the county. Gravel roads take precedence because of mail and bus routes.
“From end to end, it stretches all the way to San Diego,” Commissioner Dan Holub said of the roads the county is tasked with maintaining.
The commission and Diepenbrock posed a few different ideas. Diepenbrock suggested hiring a five-man road crew, a foreman, and four operators, using bank bonds. The crew’s sole purpose would be to rebuild dirt roads.
“Long term money is cheap,” he said.
The crew also would need equipment. Crawford suggested two road graders, two compacters, and a large scraper. It would likely cost between $500,000 and $1 million. The commission was not receptive to this suggestion.
Another idea was to take the opposite option and start closing roads. Holub said the roads would still be available to particular farmers, but not to the public.
“How can you dictate who can use a road?” Diepenbrock said.
The commission reiterated that it was within their power to close or vacate roads.
“Saline County has more revenue, is half the size, and is closing roads,” Crawford said.
There also was the suggestion that townships could take over maintenance for dirt roads, like they do in Butler and Dickenson counties.
Diepenbrock then said he was willing to perform some of the maintenance on his road with his own equipment. He specified that he would not be able rebuild a road, but could repair holes and ruts.
He said it could be possible to have farmers and ranchers band together for maintenance.
“This country was founded on people banding together and chipping in,” Commissioner Roger Fleming said. “We’ve gotten away from that.”
Diepenbrock reminded the commission that he pays taxes, a percentage of which goes to road maintenance.
“I don’t have the answers,” he said. “I’m asking, what kind of plan can we make for the future?”