A road that goes nowhere, an argument that won't go away and a bridge that goes over a short-cut road are frustrating Red Willow County commissioners.
Commissioners conducted a public hearing Monday morning to help them decide whether to close the east half of County Road 713, the one-mile-long two-track path south of Indianola that they left open a year ago so that landowner-farmer Stan Quigley can access his fields without crossing land owned by neighbor Phil Bamesberger. The road dead-ends after a mile.
Bamesberger has contended all along that he's not denying Quigley access to his land, his peace offerings of an easement, a fence and a gate, and a cattle guard rejected by Quigley.
Quigley said last year that he can't get his farm equipment to his fields without the width and the convenience of the county road that dead-ends a mile east of north-south Road 397, so, in August 2008, commissioners voted 2-1 not to close the road.
But, the argument won't die, and since March of this year, Quigley and his son, Steve, have questioned commissioners about missing fence posts and wire and how property lines are to be determined when the existing road and its rights-of-way do not follow section lines.
Steve Quigley told commissioners Monday that Bamesberger has planted sunflowers, corn and a windbreak across portions of the east one-half mile of the road. "If this keeps up," Quigley said, he questions whether Bamesberger will respect boundary lines. "If the road is closed all the way, what keeps him from moving his fence onto Dad's property?" Steve Quigley asked. Quigley said that he and his dad haven't planted on property staked for the road and right-of-way. "We haven't encroached on his property, or on county property," he said.
Commission Chairman Earl McNutt said that enforcement would become the responsibility of the sheriff.
Stan Quigley told commissioners Monday that he has "no problem" with the road as it's set up, although he admitted that there is probably "no need" for the last quarter mile of the road. He said, "As far as I'm concerned, you can leave it as it is, or shorten it a little."
Bamesberger asked commissioners to close the last half-mile of the road, "or the full mile would be better, and end this." Bamesberger's dad, Dale, urged commissioners to use common sense: "Close the whole road. You could end this."
Neighbor Dr. Mike Slattery agreed, urging commissioners to "use common sense," to look at it from a taxpayer's point of view, "and close the road." Mike Shields said, "If you close part of it, close all of it."
County Attorney Paul Wood told commissioners that although the public hearing was called to discuss closing the east one-half mile of Road 713, they could legally proceed to close the entire one-mile length of the road. "Just make sure nothing gets isolated," Wood said.
Gary Dicenta, the county's roads supervisor, indicates in a report to commissioners dated June 26, 2009, that the one-mile road could be closed because it is not used on a regular basis by either Stan Quigley on the north or Phil Bamesberger on the south. Dicenta wrote that the road, "has no bearing on the traffic flow for the general public, is not a mail or school bus route, or the only access to an occupied residence."
He wrote, "It is still my opinion that neither landowner needs this road to access Sections 5 and 8." He concluded, "It is in the best interest of Red Willow County taxpayers to close this road."
Wood told commissioners that "vacating" the road would mean that the right-of-way remains county property (for use by utilities, for example), and the road would not be available for use by the general public. "Abandoning" the road would mean the road and its right-of-way go away, that neither exists any longer and that the road and right-of-way revert to adjacent property owners. Of vacating or abandoning, Wood said he would advise abandonment.
If commissioners decide to eliminate the road, the question remains whether to abandon/vacate the road as it exists now or by the section line, where roads are traditionally placed. Dicenta said that in 99 percent of cases, a judge will rule that a long-existing fence line is the property line. Wood said that the "legal and right way ... by law ... the road is the property line," although, he said, in some cases, such as this where the road is not on the property/section line, that can create "little glitches" in the title and land description.
Commissioners took no action after ending the public hearing, leaving a decision for their next meeting, at 10:15 a.m., Monday, Aug. 3.
McNutt said, "This is very frustrating." He's been told many time, he said, that this ongoing road argument "is a total waste of taxpayer reserves." He concluded, "It's time to make a decision and be done with it."
To repair or not to repair. To install one tube, or more. To eliminate the road and bridge. Would a low water crossing suffice? Who's ultimately responsible? Why does any solution cost so much money?
Those are some of the questions commissioners are facing regarding the county bridge on Road 393 northeast of Marion -- the bridge with two cracked floor beams that the state closed until commissioners decide its fate.
McNutt said that a new prefabricated bridge would cost $100,000 to $110,000. "But," he mused, "for the use of the road ... a minimum maintenance road on north ... I can't fathom spending money on a bridge." A bridge salesman told McNutt recently that welding on the "old steel" of the 1930's-era bridge is not a feasible fix.
Gary Dicenta said he's not sure if one tube would be sufficient to carry the water and the trash of a heavy rain on the Beaver Creek. The Beaver's "either completely dry or out of its banks," Dicenta said.
But, Dicenta urged -- to cross all the T's and dot all the i's, and to satisfy state engineers -- that commissioners conduct a hydraulic study of the bridge and road. "It's in a flood plain," Dicenta said, a study will help determine what can be done and still meet flood plain requirements. "The flood plain's the biggest issue," he said. Even a low water crossing would have to meet state design requirements.
Commissioner Leigh Hoyt said even abandoning the road, taking the bridge out and making a low water crossing "would cost a little money to do, but we'd be done with it."
To abandon the road would require public notification and a public hearing as commissioners conducted last year regarding a mile of Road 713 near Indianola.
McNutt said the common sense thing would have been to replace the bridge with a tube a year ago, but, fellow commissioner Steve Downer chuckled, "Common sense isn't a prerequisite" for many government actions.
Dicenta said that losing the road would mean losing a "shortcut" to Highway 89 for several neighbors, but he added that Hitchcock County residents who lost a shortcut road recently quickly adapted to the change.
Commissioners agreed to the study, which will cost $1,400. "I'll agree, but ... " Hoyt said. "We could use that fourteen hundred dollars toward taking out the bridge and putting in a low water crossing ... "
* Approved paying Domestic Abuse/Sexual Assault Services $9,158, which is less than 5 percent of its proposed 2009-2010 budget of $220,723.
Director Donna Goad told commissioners that Red Willow County makes up 37.65 percent of the total population of its service area, whose residents are served with crisis support; emergency financial assistance, transportation and shelter; criminal and civil justice advocacy; medical advocacy; support groups for victims; legal, medical and counseling services; and educational and prevention programs.
* Are awaiting information and documentation from Hilton Farm Eco Retreat owner/developer Andela Taylor regarding the creation and verification of 3 1/2 full-time jobs by the agricultural and environmental tourism retreat she is developing on her family farm in Red Willow County southwest of Cambridge.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development is requesting a copy of a hiring schedule to ensure compliance with a "national objective" of job creation that is tied to Taylor's acceptance and use of a $131,000 CDBG grant from the NDED (not from the county's own revolving loan fund). The report requested by the NDED measures positions filled by persons who meet low-moderate income guidelines.
A recent letter from the NDED to commissioners indicates that failure to meet the CDBG national job creation objective as contracted may result in the payback of the CDBG project funds to the NDED.
In March 2005, Red Willow County commissioners agreed to act as grant applicant for Taylor because NDED grants must be funneled through a government entity. Taylor has not yet opened the tourism attraction.