Personnel may change, but the county chorus remains the same: Roads, particularly dirt and gravel ones, are in rough shape.
Road and bridge superintendent Jesse Hamm sounded a lot like predecessor Randy Crawford when he met with county commissioners Friday.
“These dirt roads are just out of hand,” Hamm said. “We have no crowns, we have no ditches. We’re so far behind the game right now.”
The county dodged storms during the height of wheat harvest in June, but above average rainfall has scuttled Hamm’s plans for significant improvements over the summer.
“I wanted to knock out quite a few this year, but there just hasn’t been much opportunity,” he said. “I’ve had some gentlemen trying to do quality work over quantity and it was backfiring on us. We were falling behind on everything else with the continuous rains. I told them to pick up the quantity and come back for quality if it dries up.”
With resigned frustration, commissioner Dan Holub turned toward commission chair Randy Dallke.
“Remember seven or eight years ago, Randy?” he said. “How much did you hear about minimum maintenance roads? It was all pavement. Then it became all gravel. We’ve got a ways to go.”
However, Hamm was concerned about pavement, too.
“What I’m nervous about this fall and winter is that with all the fall harvest and crops that need to be cut yet and all this moisture under all these roads, I’m especially worried about these paved roads. This fall’s going to be rough.”
Holub said moisture problems already are apparent on 330th Rd. west of K-15, commonly known as the Roxbury road. A two-inch overlay applied in 2012 began deteriorating less than a year later, and in places the road is as much compacted gravel patching as it is asphalt.
“You can see in that gravel after the rains that there’s wet spots where it’s just seeping up underneath,” Holub said. “I got out and felt a couple, and they’re wet. The water just keeps coming from underneath, subterranean water just wicking its way up there. You’re right, we’re going to have problems.”
Hamm reported a fix for a plugged ditch that was causing flooding on 130th Rd. east of K-15 required digging out 2 feet of dirt over a 900-foot stretch.
“A lot of dirt came out of that ditch,” he said. “Everything is flowing pretty good.”
Dallke was ready with another project near 110th and Wagonwheel Rds.
“We’ve got water going back and forth across the road in two places,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work there before. Up top we did that a couple of years ago. Get a plan and we’ll see if we can all agree on it.”
The fix there will likely include similar elements roads all over the county need.
“We’ve got to start somewhere, narrow them up, get some crowning, get some ditches flowing some water, and get the water off the road,” Hamm said.