County takes aim at weeds

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Red Willow County weed control specialist Bill Elliott told commissioners Monday morning he has served 22 10-day notices on landowners who have noxious thistles growing on their land. Elliott said, "With the moisture we've had, the thistles have suddenly popped through the cheat grass." He continued, "The county's in good shape overall. The people who are working on it (the thistle problem) have been winning."

Following the discussion of thistles, commissioners agreed to put off blacktopping the east-west county road two miles north of McCook and took no action on a request from an engineering company for access to county land for the clean-up and monitoring of a diesel spill that originated on Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway property on South Street in McCook.

Weed Specialist Elliott told commissioners, "The same people are the same problem every year ... some have been the same for 20 years."

Most of those served have or are spraying the thistles on their land, Elliott said, although they may be served again this fall, when they'll get better results with chemical control. The names of offending landowners may be published at that time, said Commission Chairman Earl McNutt.

McNutt agreed with Elliott that the thistle problem has eased somewhat in the last four or so years. "We want to hit it hard-and-heavy this fall," McNutt said. "We want to keep gaining on the problem. I'd hate to go backwards."

McNutt said the county will definitely spray some land this fall, "whether they (the landowners) like it or not."

Elliott said the thistle problem is ultimately the landowner's responsibility. "The bottom line is, 'Get rid of it,' but it's the landowner's responsibility, not the county's."

Elliott's notices allow 10 days for landowners to take care of their thistles, and also allow the county to spray if the landowners don't. The cost of the spray and the labor is billed to the landowner or added to the landowner's tax bill as a special assessment.

Commissioner Leigh Hoyt told fellow commissioners he talked to four or five constituents and none of those was in favor of blacktopping the first east-west gravel road north of McCook. Hoyt said they seemed concerned with budget constraints and are pleased with the condition of the current gravel road.

"If we're asking county officials to maintain or reduce their budgets," Hoyt said, "we commissioners need to start right here, right now, and set an example."

Bids on the project, submitted last week as "alternate bids" to the county's annual armor-coating projects and tabled until this week, ranged from $41,109.10 to $43,337.50.

Commissioners will talk with County Attorney Paul Wood about an agreement with RDG Geoscience and Engineering concerning the drilling and maintenance of three fuel-recovery and three monitoring wells on land on which the county's household waste collection facility is located on South Street.

The wells are designed to recover and monitor diesel fuel spilled by Burlington Northern Railroad near the site of the city's 4 million-gallon water reservoir, also on South Street.

The diesel recovery/monitoring project started with 12 initial well sites in 1997. In 1998 and again in 2001, the railroad and remediation company went to the city for agreements to drill 17 wells near the water storage site.

Commissioners said Monday they were concerned with RDG's maps showing wells near the HWC building, and decided to visit with the county attorney before signing an agreement. In other action, commissioners:

Encouraged residents with zoning questions to contact the county's zoning administrator, Darcy Eckhardt, on her cell phone, (308) 340-3144 or on her home answering machine, (308) 345-4442.

Appointed Hoyt to serve as the county's representative on a McCook-county committee to address the growing problem of illegal dumping of trash in county ditches. Commissioner Steve Downer said he would like to investigate further the possibility of a grant to finance the purchase of equipment to remove refrigerant, which must be removed from refrigerators and freezers before disposal.

Approved the county's contribution of $8,848.78 to fund Red Willow's portion of the District 9 Probation budget in 2003-2004. Probation's budget will be $74,819.55, which is shared by the 17 counties in the district. Probation's request from Red Willow County indicates no increase from 2002-2003. Approved a $10,000 county contribution to the McCook Economic Development Corp. MEDC Director Kay Lavene said the county's contribution is not used for incentives to attract businesses, but for administrative costs, rent, promotions and brochures. McNutt said, at the risk of sounding negative, he was tempted to give less, "but we need economic development."

Reviewed a letter from CPA Donald Wilson regarding Governmental Accounting Standards Board accounting changes and software.

Acting as a board of equalization, approved tax exemptions for vehicles purchased by Southwest Area Training Service for educational purposes and by South Central Behavioral Services for charitable purposes. McNutt recommended that Treasurer Marleen Garcia take budget and revenue questions to the county's budget clerk.

"There is no one more skilled ... more knowledgeable about our budget than Shirley Volz," McNutt said. McNutt said he feared Volz's eventual retirement. Someone in the clerk's office is going to have to step up and learn the intricacies of the budget and budget processes, McNutt said.

Approved accounts payable claims and filed the county clerk's monthly fee report.

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