Residents Ask For Road Improvements

At least fifteen residents on Tuesday asked Saline County Commissioners to make improvements to West Water Well Road, between Lightville and Burma Roads.

  • Most asked that the road be paved, to cut down on dust.
  • Some asked for the County to negotiate with the City. In places, the existing road encroaches on the City’s property by 20 feet.  Expanding the easements would enable the County to restore ditches and other safety features.  This could also mean relocating fiber optic and water lines, at a cost of over $100,000.
  • Many want ditches restored; in the absence of ditches, the road itself fills with water. Commissioner John Price suggested exploring a “curb and gutter” system he’s seen used in similar situations.
  • Describing it as the “hump before the hill”, resident Jerry McKay wanted to see this addressed.
  • As importantly, many want to see the speed limit reduced; currently, no signs are posted. This means vehicles should not travel more than 55 miles per hour, but residents said some vehicles travel at higher speeds.

County Engineer Neil Cable said that the presence of a Water Well Road interstate exit signals that other highway traffic entities consider Water Well Road to be a “backbone” of Saline County’s road system.

Cable began the discussion with an overview of the history of the road, which was opened on April 15, 1890.  During the 1940s, it helped support a community of 80,000 at Camp Phillips.  In 2009, then County Commissioners asked ten residents to give right-of-ways to the county; three responded favorably; five declined and two did not respond.  As a result, the County Commission moved on to their second priority, doing work on North Ohio and Humburger Road, where residents all donated land to accomplish that improvement.

Cable estimated that preliminary costs of paving Water Well Road, between Burma and Lightville Roads, would cost $427,152.  Cable said that these costs do not include testing, surveying or permits.  There also could be considerable costs for moving utilities, clearing trees, constructing ditches, moving culvert pipes, and reseeding the area.  Some projected the true cost to be $1.5 million or more.

Cable projected that maintenance on the paved road might approximate $30-50,000/year which parallels the present cost of maintaining the gravel road.

As positives, Cable said that paving the road would reduce dust.  As negatives, he said that:

  • The steep hill could become more slick during inclement weather.
  • There could be increased storm runoff as pavement would reduce the possibility that any of the runoff would be absorbed into the gravel road itself.
  • There could be erosion along the sides of the pavement and other on-going pavement maintenance issues, that could make it more likely for a vehicle to roll over, if it strays from the pavement.
  • There could be increased resistance of developers in not wanting to meet the county’s minimum road standards.

Chairman Monte Shadwick said that all “five commissioners are in agreement that there is a problem”.  He thanked those in attendance for sharing their observations and preferences.  Other citizens may send comments to the Commission.  The proceedings can be watched on ACCESS television

Price suggested that reducing the speed limit could be addressed more quickly and suggested that the Commission might look at this as soon as next week.

Front End Wheel Loader Bids

Road Superintendent Darren Fishel presented five options for a front end wheel loader.  The 2016 equipment improvement fund had budgeted for a used loader, but these are in short supply.  Price directed then Road and Bridge Director Gary Nash to seek bids for a loader that the County would purchase outright and then might sell independently.  This low-bid came back with a Doosan loader having the lowest purchase cost.  Price said he was unfamiliar with the Doosan BRAND and persuaded Commissioners Jim Gile and Luci Larson to go out for bid again, but this time asking for both a purchase price and a guarantee buy-back price.

Foley Equipment of Salina submitted a bid for a CAT 930 MHL with an initial purchase price of $172,300, and a guaranteed buy back of $88,500, giving it the lowest overall cost of $83,800.  The lease would be for 7 years or 7,500 hours and would amount to the County paying the equivalent of $13,000/year (just over $1,000/month) to lease this front end wheel loader.

On April 12, Shadwick voted against the preferences of Price, Gile and Larson to go back out to bid, saying doing so might jeopardize trust in the bid process.  Last week, Commissioner Dave Smith said he’d reviewed the April 12th ACCESS tape and said he shared Commissioner Shadwick’s concerns.

Today, Price said that the “net cost is what I was concerned about; I wasn’t trying to go against bidding.”  He added, “I wanted the bids to be correct; buy-back is very important”.  This matter will likely come to a vote at next week’s Open Forum.

Nex-Tech Contract for Phone Services

As the City-County Building looks at upgrading its phone system, Computer Technology Director Brad Bowers presented the Commission with a $2,165/month, 60 month contract with Nex-Tech for cloud based phone services for all County departments located within the City-County Building.  Both the City and County have approved a separate agreement to wire the building, but work will not begin until both the City and County enter into separate agreements for phone service.

Shadwick commented that the cost for fax lines was high and asked if materials could be scanned and e-mailed instead.  Questions will be answered before the BOCC votes on this matter, likely at next week’s Open Forum.

In other action, the Commission:

  • Received summaries from the 2015 audit, which was recently finalized.
  • Approved a disaster relief application for property tax abatement for 805 W Ash.
  • Heard discussion led by Planning and Zoning Director David Neal regarding the County’s sanitation code. Of greatest interest is a requirement to size the septic system to the number of bedrooms in a home, even though those spaces may not have been used as bedrooms.  Differences in State and local requirements were discussed.  Neal said that 50% of septic systems fail this inspection due to concrete deterioration.  This matter will be scheduled for public comment, perhaps in two weeks.
  • Heard concerns from Bonnie George that Planning and Zoning meetings did not comply with “open meeting and open record requirements”. Shadwick said he’d personally follow-up on the concerns she expressed.
  • Received a report on the usage of the EXPO Center and how it fits into the City’s possible downtown development plans. Shadwick suggested including language on the dollar value of proposed improvements the County is willing to make, if the City extends the County’s lease on the EXPO Center, which is due to expire in 2019.  It was said that the City plans to consider this matter in 2018.
  • Heard several individuals at Open Forum speak favorably of their interactions with former Road and Bridge Director Gary Nash.
  • Determined that Michelle Martin and Rick Beus would need to complete new “expression of interest forms” if they wish to continue to serve on the Committee to Reduce the Jail Population. While this Committee did not begin meeting until January 2016, the Board first collecting “expressions of interest forms” for this a year ago.
  • Received a summary obtained by going through past County Clerk minutes, that in 2015, the Commission spent on average <4.5 hours/week conducting official business. Karen Shade said the Jail has hemorrhaged almost $500,000 a year for the past three years and expressed concerns that the Commissioners and Sheriff rarely discuss this matter.