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County residents: Leave road alone

At least two county residents aren't happy with the possibility that an asphalt road near their homes may be turned into gravel. A recent condition inventory of county roads discussed last week by the Davison County Commission included a list of ...

At least two county residents aren't happy with the possibility that an asphalt road near their homes may be turned into gravel.

A recent condition inventory of county roads discussed last week by the Davison County Commission included a list of deteriorating blacktop roads that Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg recommended be ground up and maintained as gravel roads as a cost-cutting measure.

That list included a section of 403rd Avenue -- also known as Betts Road -- north of 254th Street.

During Tuesday's commission meeting, Harvey Kelley and Gene Stehly, both of whom live on 250th Street, argued that the seven miles of Betts Road should remain asphalt.

Kelley, who lives east of Betts Road, said, "I have property along Betts Road. If they put in a gravel road, that decreases the value of my property."

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Stehly said he also owns property along Betts Road and said his father, Don, lives off the highway. He said the county needs to keep its blacktopped roads.

"We see it as a quality-of-life issue here in the county. We think it should be a priority to maintain the blacktop roads we have and we see it as regressive to start taking them out. A lot of them have been there for 40 years," Stehly said.

Stehly acknowledged that it's a money issue.

"But it's also a priority issue," he said.

Maintaining roads and other infrastructure should be given a higher priority than the county has assigned in the past, Stehly said.

"I think you'll see the public in the county very much concerned about keeping these blacktop roads," he said.

Commissioner John Claggett urged both men to attend legislative discussions and relay their concerns to state lawmakers.

"We have to change the political will," he said.

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Commission Chairman Jerry Fischer said he has consistently been against grinding up county roads, but he also said no final decisions have been made.

"I'd like to encourage more people to come in for public input on the matter," he said.

Fischer said later that he wants the county to continue patching as much highway as possible. He also agreed with Weinberg's recommendation to chip and seal between 20 to 30 percent of county roads each year to keep on a five-year maintenance cycle.

In other business, Jail Administrator Don Radel said he was surprised to learn that the 10-by-10-foot holding room in the southwest corner of the fourth floor of the courthouse -- previously used as a holding facility for prisoners -- now contains filing cabinets.

"The courthouse holding room is gone," he said.

The room's availability previously eliminated the need for moving prisoners back to the jail during trials, he said. The last time the room was used was during the Kelly Boyer trial, about two years ago, recalled Radel.

Radel said he wanted to try to preserve the space for jail use. The idea in 1996, when the jail was moved to the present facility, was that a holding area would be maintained at the courthouse, he said.

Fischer said the space was changed without the authorization of the commissioners.

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Security grilles and old plumbing also were removed from the space, he said, which now contains some papers belonging to a former judge as well as files from the veteran's and welfare offices.

Fischer said Auditor Susan Kiepke gave permission to use the space, but didn't have that authority. Kiepke said some offices need additional storage space.

But the matter clearly irritated Fischer. Directing his comments at Kiepke, he said, "This idea of everyone running to your office is going to stop."

Those requesting the space "did not come through this office," he said, emphasizing that the commissioners have the final say on space allocations.

In other business, commissioners:

- Denied Brenda Schulte's request for additional office space on the second floor at the courthouse. Schulte, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a child advocacy program for abused and neglected children, said three staff members, files and office equipment are currently crowded into a 13-by-14-foot room. "We're thankful for the office space, but things are tight," she said. Fischer said space is at a premium in the courthouse.

Schulte also requested the use of the county fairgrounds building for a May 30 "In Celebration of Children" event, which she described as a free event for area families that will feature numerous community organizations. She was directed to check with Deb Knudsen regarding building availability. Schulte will finalize details with the commissioners next week.

- Directed Radel to develop possible options for a juvenile holding facility tentatively by March 10.

- Heard from Brian Bultje, operations manager for Central Electric Cooperative, who requested some documentation from the board that acknowledged the commission's permission for occasional overweight company trucks to travel county roads to restore power in emergencies. Fischer directed Weinberg to check with Deputy State's Attorney Jim Taylor regarding any potential liabilities surrounding documentation.

- Heard from Weinberg, who said Palace Motors refused to take back about $39 worth of unused special-order parts for the county's mobile emergency operations center (MEOC). The information supplied was correct, said Weinberg, but the parts didn't fit. The commissioners directed Weinberg to try again.

- Tabled a request from Vantage Point President Chad Glanzer for specific county geographic information systems mapping files, pending the return of Commissioner Dick Ziegler, who was absent from Tuesday's meeting for health reasons.

- Set 5 p.m. March 16 as the deadline for the receipt of bids on upcoming highway contracts. The contracts include highway materials, paving projects and about 34 miles of chip and seal projects. Bids will be opened at 9:30 a.m. March 17. No walk-in bids will be accepted on March 17, said Fischer.

- Approved the 2009 schedule of Hunt Safe classes to be held, free of cost, at the county fairground complex. The classes, which cover firearm safety and other topics, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on March 26-27; April 16-17; May 14-15; Aug. 13-14; and Sept. 17-18. For more information, contact Conservation Officer Andy Petersen at 995-8148.

- Denied a request from Radel for two corrections officers to attend an interview training course.

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