The Saline County Commission issued a mandatory 7 day ban on the open burning of any waste, normal household trash in a container, structures or vegetation within the boundaries of Saline County. The ban includes the City of Salina. The ban will be in place until it is specifically rescinded by the Commission.
The resolution notes that “wildfires are a real and imminent threat to cause widespread or severe damage to property, injury or loss of life in disastrous proportions”. The Commission proclaimed that a State of Local Disaster Emergency exists in Saline County.
Emergency Management Director Hannah Stambaugh said that last Saturday, local rural fire districts “ran from call to call to call”. Of the 51 “controlled burns” her office approved, 8 of those got out of hand and required assistance from rural fire districts. So far, for the month of March, there have been 38 fire calls; 16 were for controlled burns that got out of hand.
While the resolution passed with a 4-1 margin, Commissioner Rodger Sparks voted against the measure.
Carl Redden, from Gypsum, addressed the Commission with concerns about how the Emergency Management Office decides which windows of time are not suitable for burning. He said, “Lately, its been a blanket no burning during optimal days.”
State regulations permit burning from “dawn to dusk” and limit burning at certain wind speeds. Stambaugh admitted that burning is suspended based on weather predictions.
Redden spoke of frustrations that burn permits are routinely issued to any individual seeking one, and no distinction is made between those who have controlled burns that have gotten away from them. He noted that some make “no preparations; they don’t mow around their fields, don’t monitor the burn” as it is occurring, and “don’t have a procedure for back burning” a field. He voiced frustration that when burn suspensions are issued, “it doesn’t matter what equipment or special preparations” have been made.
Stambaugh clarified that since the “bombing range”, south of the airport, is on Federal property, staff may burn this ground, in spite of County-issued burn bans and suspensions. She added that if these burns get out of hand, the rural fire districts respond.
Stambaugh said the County has options. Russell County charges those who burn inappropriately; the land owner has to pay fines for every truck and firefighter who respond to a call. Commissioner Robert Vidricksen asked that Stambaugh, along with concerned fire chiefs and farmers form a committee to study options. Commissioner Jim Weese spoke of the Prescribed Burn Association and suggested that this group might offer options.
Emergency Management Deputy Director Bernie Botson said this is a “multilayer problem” and proposed solutions “won’t please everyone”. He said that RFD#6 has essentially put all of a fire truck’s fire fighting components on a chassis. They will loan this to others to have on hand during a burn, if they have the ability to tow the chassis. He noted that this chassis does not get used as much as it should.
Right of Way Vacations
The Commissioners voted to proceed with writing three “requests for action” involving right of way vacations involving:
- East Crawford Road, requested by Mike Henry
- Mahan Road, requested by Pete Hocking
- Gypsum Valley Road, requested by Mike Henry
Vidricksen questioned why the Count pays approximately $150 per vacation request to publish a legal notice in the newspaper; he suggested that in the future, the applicant pay this fee. County Clerk Jamie Allen spoke of plans to enhance the process by asking the requestor to submit a written request and include written input from Road and Bridge and the involved fire districts.
County Engineer Neil Cable spoke against any use of a closed bridge on Mahan Road that had a 3 ton limit; he said “when it rolls, someone will die”. He said the bridge could be fixed and perhaps users could come to an agreement of controlled use. He said the bridge had been closed because even if it had been “fixed, it would have been a substandard bridge”.
Vidricksen vocalized concerns about vacating a segment of Gypsum Valley Road. In two weeks, interested land owners and the public will be able to speak to the Commission about these vacations.
Gravel Road Upgrade
A discussion about a proposed Gravel Road Upgrade program, developed by Cable, was tapped and can be viewed on ACCESS TV. His proposal can be viewed at www.saline.org, under today’s Commission agenda.
Weese commended the foresight of a previous commission that set up a 2 mil fund that has been used to upgrade and improve bridges throughout the county. Cable proposed that with a plan of action, committed funding, and a long-term commitment from Commissioners, gravel roads could be improved.
Cable spoke of a three year rolling plan. In the first year, the Engineering division would do field surveys and acquire rights of way. In the second year, Road and Bridge crews would move utilities, do clearing and grubbing of the right of way, address ditches/culverts and make drainage improvements. This phase is projected to cost $250,000 per mile. In the third year, any additional surfacing would be applied by other contractors at an additional cost; Cable projected that asphalting a gravel road could cost $400,000 per mile. After work was completed by one division one year, that same division would begin work on another segment of road the following year.
Vidricksen said he is experiencing a “case of cold feet” when he considers the “amount of money involved”.
In other matters, the Commission:
- Approved four new Oliver Haag Scholarship recipients for this year and will re-new scholarships for ten other previous recipients.
- Awarded APAC of Kansas a bid for $277,219 for a projects to do aggregate shoulder construction on three roads: Kipp Road (from K-4 Highway north to County Club Road), Magnolia Road (from Kipp Road west to Salina City limits), and Country Club Road (from Simpson Road east to the Saline County line).
- Awarded Bettiss Asphault and Construction Company a bid for $139,482 to do bridge deck repair and multi-layer sealing of concrete overlays for seven bridges.