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Should county maintain roads in subdivisions?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The chairman of the Red Willow County, Nebraska, board of commissioners doesn't want to start road maintenance for one subdivision because then every other subdivision will want the same treatment.

And, commission chairman Earl McNutt said he's worked hard to treat the county's six subdivisions the same -- no county maintenance on roads that are not publicly owned. McNutt said he's set a precedence in the past, that the county does not maintain roads in subdivisions.

Taking over maintenance of a road inside the Calabria Subdivision northeast of McCook "would be a huge mistake," McNutt said. "Or there are going to be more subdivisions approaching the county" for the same treatment.

In fact, McNutt said, a subdivision developer appeared before commissioners Monday morning asking about the proper procedure to request county maintenance of the roads in the subdivision, north of the fairgrounds in McCook, in which he lives.

"This could have a domino affect," McNutt said, in regard to cost, labor and equipment to maintain roads in subdivisions.

Commissioners tabled -- again -- any decision on a request from homeowners in the Calabria subdivision northeast of McCook that the county maintain their roads. The homeowners are not asking for improvements, two homeowners reiterated Monday, just gravel and blading when it's necessary.

McNutt will contact Lloyd Smith, the county's roads superintendent who lives in Valentine and works for Niobrara Valley Consulting, to request that Smith inspect the subdivision roads and research their history -- whether they were dedicated to use by the public and built to city or county roads standards, whichever is more stringent. If the answer is "yes," to both questions, by state statute, the county must maintain the roads -- even though the plat for the subdivision was originally approved (in the late 1990s) by the City of McCook -- because it is within the city's two-mile radius -- and the county had no voice in the plat's approval.

County Attorney Paul Wood recommended that Smith investigate and research the roads and the plat. "What if part (of the subdivision roads) meets standards and part doesn't?" Wood asked. "Which is more stringent -- the city's (standards) or the county's?" Is there guidance in the law, he asked.

Commissioner Steve Downer said the county board needs to have Smith do the study, and look into making the subdivision roads public roads. "All the other subdivisions would have to jump through the same hoops," Downer said.

"There's not a big advantage to being part of the county road system."

Fellow commissioner Vesta Dack agreed with Downer, but McNutt said he's "trying to make the responsibility fall where it should, with the developer."

Another subdivision developer "understands the responsibility," McNutt said, and assesses regular maintenance and improvements to homeowners. "I don't think this is a situation for the county to be in," he said.

The subject returns to the commissioners' agenda on Monday, July 11, at 9:30 a.m.

Commissioners divided road gravel needs in 20 precincts among three providers when chairman McNutt opened annual gravel bids Monday morning.

Hancock Gravel was awarded: Bondville Precinct, bidding $7.21 per ton delivered; and Fritsch, $7.38. Hancock's bid if the county hauls gravel from its pits: $5.35 per ton.

Paulsen Inc.: Tyrone, $7.88 per ton; East Valley, $7.33; Indianola, $6.99; Red Willow, $6.99; North Valley, $7.65; and Alliance, $7.25. Paulsen's FOB is $5.50 per ton.

EIA LLC: Lebanon, $7.42 per ton; Beaver, $7.01; Danbury, $6.47; Gerver, $5.93; Grant, $6.02; Missouri Ridge, $6.95; Valley Grange, $5.37; Driftwood, 5.32; Willow Grove, $5.37; Perry, $5.37; Box Elder, $6.17; and Coleman, $5.66. EIA's FOB is $6.

Commissioners approved and signed a disaster declaration presented by Red Willow County Sheriff Gene Mahon in which Red Willow and Furnas counties are seeking $150,000 from the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, for repair of damages to public and private property (particularly to Nebraska Public Power District electric lines and poles) caused by severe storms and flooding between May 24 and June 24.

Myra Stoney of McCook presented the annual report from the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department to commissioners. Stoney said the health department does not request county funds, but reports activities and projects to county commissioners each year.

The health department was established by the State of Nebraska on May 14, 2002, and is one of 18 health districts formed as a result of LB692. The health department system is funded by federal tobacco settlement funds.

The mission of the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department, in partnership with other entities, "is to promote a healthy and secure quality of life for our communities."

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Sometimes there's no reason to complain. Fine you don't want to spend the money. However, if there's only two questions that have to be answered yes and both questions can be answered yes to, then by law you have to maintain it.

Same for the other subdivisions. it may have a domino effect but still, it's what the law requires.

Also, to my understanding there are still several unimproved lots in the subdivision. if everything is up to code and the county keeps it that way, wouldn't it make it more desirable for people to improve the lots and thus raise more tax revenue?

-- Posted by npwinder on Wed, Jun 29, 2011, at 12:22 AM

npwinder, I couldn't agree more, but I have a few things I would like to put out for our community to consider...

There is one key point in this news story that everyone needs to see very clearly "state statute". As someone who drives the roads in Calabria's subdivision regularly enough, I can assure you they are awful. I fear giving my newborn shaken baby syndrome just at the entrance alone! These residents are paying taxes to the county, right? So what's the problem? While I can see Mr. McNutt's hesitation to start a "domino effect", its a domino effect of responsibility not a domino effect of the county being stuck with things they shouldn't have to do. And quite honestly I hope the rest of these subdivisions (which I understand to be far fewer than 6 as 3 of them are city responsibility) stand up for themselves as well, they deserve the maintenance too. I'm pretty sure the amount of taxes that the county is pulling from this subdivision is MUCH higher than the cost to them for maintaining them.

The residents fighting for this have spent at least 3 of their Monday mornings sitting in meetings just so that it can be kicked under the rug yet again. Just get the research over with and give them the results they deserve. I am not a person that believes everyone is entitled to everything they want, but this is something they do indeed DESERVE as taxpayers of our county. I am proud of Paul Woods for standing up and getting down to business, now Mr. McNutt its up to you to do the same, everyone else seems to get it but you.

Again, being familiar with the situation I can assure Mr. McNutt he will not wiggle out of this situation as he obviously hopes he will. The residents are willing to do whatever it takes to get this done, so seriously just get over yourself.

-- Posted by just another face in town on Wed, Jun 29, 2011, at 12:48 PM

I would like to take the opportunity to further clarify my position on this issue. I speak for no one else calling themselves a Calabria resident. I only speak for me and for my family.

Foremost, I am not trying to request any kind of "special treatment" or "exception to the rule" by requesting that the county help with the roads in the subdivision. I mentioned in my response to the first story that I had done some reasearch with the help of others, which indicated that I may have a statute of some kind to help my cause. That is the opinion/advice you see written above given by Mr. Wood (with regard to meeting 2 yes/no criteria) to the commissioners. Keep in mind it is his legal advice as the elected county attorney and the commissioners have every right to accept or reject that advice and I recognize that.

This has been an eye-opening experience for me as a new home-owner and all of you veteran homeowners can again say to me, "Welcome to homeownership!"

I am not sure of the exactness of the numbers posted above with regard to the number of subdivisions within city limits or where "responsibility" lies, but what I can say with certainty is this: they are not all "in the same boat". What I can also say with certainty is that if they meet the same criteria that I feel my particular subdivision meets, then they need to do what is stated above and "jump through the same hoops."

If it is found that the criteria are not met (1: dedicated public, 2: built to most stringent standard) then Calabria has no argument and I stop there. I do not ask that the taxpayers of our county improve anything for me. If we want improvements, we form a paving district or assess fees to the homeowners and get done what needs to get done on our own dollar. However, if I have already paid that dollar in my taxes, and state statute backs me up, then I want [it] to go to something. School buses use those roads, mail carriers use those roads, and the general public uses those roads at their will. I am also using economic development as an argument as npwinder pointed out. I moved back to McCook from Lincoln not only because of an incredible job opportunity, but because there was available NEW housing away from railroad tracks and not in city limits (personal preferences). I looked at homes in the Lincoln area for over a year and the most similar thing I could find to what I bought here in McCook was something 50 years old, in need of serious remodeling, on a small "lot", and starting in the low $200's. We have a great thing going here with room to build more. As a community, we should be thinking of ways to show people in the eastern half of the state that this really is the way to go! The roads in a subdivision aren't the whole answer, but they are certainly a piece of the pie.

Again, I want to thank the commissioners for being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and for taking the time to listen to my statements. I would also like to thank Connie Jo Discoe for following this story and bringing it to the public's attention for their consideration.


Adam J. Wolford

-- Posted by Adam Wolford on Thu, Jun 30, 2011, at 9:29 AM

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