County engineer Brice Goebel spent much of a Monday meeting about issues with county roads avoiding eye contact with township trustees except to sometimes disagree with what they said.
Four weeks after 13 trustees presented complaints about road maintenance in writing, the group appeared for further discussion.
Commission chairman David Mueller led the group through the questions trustees had presented in a letter a month ago.
The first question was how it was determined which roads were rebuilt first.
Goebel said the decision was based on resources available.
One trustee said he drove a lot of “so-called untraveled roads.” Some of them are heavily traveled at times, the trustee said.
Carol Duerksen lives on a road with eight residences, and “we haven’t seen maintenance there in months,” she said.
Paul Penner said 240th Rd. between Falcon and Eagle Rds. hadn’t been maintained for nearly 10 years.
“There are contain areas that need cleaned up, and it’s just going to get worse,” Penner said.
Other questions included how many miles of gravel had been rebuilt in the past year and how many dirt roads ditches had been pulled and dirt roads crowned so runoff would not cause deterioration.
“In the five-year plan, it is stated that these roads would be worked on during the winter months as long as it was not too wet,” their letter said. “Even though they are dirt, they continue to be thoroughfares for farmers, ranches, families, and taxpayers to use for the livelihood. These roads would require approximately two days a mile to complete on the average.”
One trustee said it appeared the road department responded only to people who called to complain.
“If that’s the way it’s going to be done, that’s chaos,” he said.
Nick Kraus said he knew people who complained and got work done to their farms, but workers don’t extend the work farther along the road.
“I don’t want to be the one calling all the time,” Kraus said.
Goebel spent much of the time with his arms crossed over his chest and his gaze directed across the room or toward a table.
Sometimes he would engage with township trustees, but not always in a pleasant tone.
When one man talked about getting gravel work done on his road, Goebel retorted that the man had just said he wanted his road paved.
Trustees also had questions about hard rock.
Lincolnville resident Mike Beneke and Goebel got into a brief yelling match.
“I bought $70,000 worth of rock,” Beneke said before rising to his feet and starting to walk out of the room.
“Bring it down, Mike,” commissioner Randy Dallke said.
“This is worthless,” Beneke said as he walked out the door.
He later returned and stood in a doorway. Commissioner Jonah Gehring motioned him to come back in, but Beneke did not.
Trustees asked about blade patching, which can take graders away from their designated assignments. They asked whether blade patching could be contracted out.
Goebel said it would cost $40,000 a week to hire a contractor to do blade patching.
Kraus asked how much it cost the county to do it.
“It may be actually costing us more to do it ourselves,” Kraus said.
“Until we do that analysis, we don’t know,” Penner said.
Goebel said the county at one time had 24 road maintainers but now has 12.
“Our road system is not sustainable,” one trustee said. “We need to find a better system.”
Speaking to commissioners, Goebel said: “You need to tell me right now what you want me to focus on, gravel, blacktop, or dirt, and I’ll focus on that.”
Discussion took a softer tone as the meeting wrapped up.
“Can we do things better?” Goebel said. “I’m sure we can.”
A trustee responded: “Are there things that we can do as landowners to make it better for you?”
Goebel brought a chuckle when he told them to stop buying big farm equipment and go back to Model Ts.