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Crowd expected for drainage plan

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Commissioner Denny Kiner expects a proposed new Davison County drainage ordinance will draw interest from area farmers when the item comes before the commission for a first reading Tuesday at the courthouse.

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The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the Commissioners' Room, with the drainage ordinance on the agenda at 9:30.

Depending on public turnout, the commission meeting may have to be recessed and moved to a larger location, Auditor Susan Kiepke said last week.

The new ordinance does much to streamline the existing 1987 ordinance, said Kiner, who is one of two county commissioners on the drainage board. He believes the county, as well as agricultural interests, will benefit.

"It's farmer friendly," Kiner said during a recent interview that included county Planning and Zoning Administrator Jeff Bathke. "It will speed the process for a farmer who wants to drain a field."

A better system was needed to deal with a growing number of drainage applications, Kiner said.

In the past, drainage applicants had to take out the required application, notify all affected landowners and then get the application approved by the drainage board -- a process that might take four to six weeks.

Notifications and a list of signatures are still required under the proposed ordinance, but once all steps are completed, the drainage administrator -- Bathke -- would be able to grant or deny an application in a matter of days.

The ordinance has several additional goals, Kiner said.

The hope is that if proper procedures are followed, the drainage board will be able to address drainage issues between neighbors and keep drainage squabbles out of court.

If problems cannot be resolved by the drainage board, a problem can still be turned over to the state's attorney for legal action.

"We hope the new ordinance will force people to follow specific procedures when they install a drainage system," Kiner said, "so we'll know when and where work occurred."

The new system will also give the county an accurate historical record of drainage installations, something that has been spotty in the past.

Bathke said Davison County has 12 major drains that were installed in the first half of the 20th century.

"We've had applicants come in for a drainage permit who didn't know they had an existing county drain on their land that might save them money," he said.

A caveat is that old drain systems may or may not be functional.

Older systems were installed using clay pipe, some of which collapsed or filled with sediment over the years.

The new ordinance requires accurate recording of all drainage installations, complete with Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. It will also insure that drainage systems are installed correctly, Kiner said, since plans must be submitted prior to digging.

A pet peeve of Kiner's has been unclear language in the 1987 ordinance that requires drainage applicants to notify landowners downstream who may be affected by a drainage project.

"How far does that mean?" asked Kiner. "The James River? The Missouri?"

The new ordinance requires a list of all landowners one-half mile upstream and one mile downstream and within a quarter-mile buffer on both sides.

The ordinance also makes provision for drainage repairs and complaints.

The drainage board consists of Chairman Mark Schilling, commissioners Kiner and Gerald Weiss and board members Floyd Morrison, Greg Bult, Wayne Gronseth and ex-officio (non-voting) members that include Director of Equalization Kathy Goetsch, Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg and Emergency Management Director Jim Montgomery.

"Developing this ordinance has been one heck of a challenge," Kiner said, "and I can't say enough about this board. It has a good mix of large and small operators."

A proposed draft of the new ordinance can be found on the county website at davisoncounty.org under "Drainage Agenda."

Following is the full agenda of Tuesday's meeting:

• 9 a.m.: Call to order, Pledge of Allegiance, approval of minutes, citizens' input.

• 9:30 a.m.: First reading of drainage ordinance.

• 10:15 a.m.: 2014 budget review.

• 11:45 a.m.: Website review.

• 11:55 a.m.: Miscellaneous motions brought to the board, approval of bills and timesheets, an item listed as "add deputy coroner," and a proposal to cancel the Sept. 17 meeting.

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