A Lake County resident expressed distress at the actions of the Highway Department when the Lake County Commission met on Thursday morning.
Danielle Kearin admitted that until gravel was dumped on the road by her rural residence, she had not been aware of discussions regarding county roads. She indicated she did not know the county had a five-year transportation plan or had considered a road and bridge levy.
As a result, Kearin reported being "blindsided" when a section of 451st Avenue was covered with gravel. She said the action "feels drastic, feels lazy."
Lake County Highway Superintendent Nels Nelson told commissioners in April of plans to grind up three sections of paved roadway, including a section on 451st Avenue. He acknowledged the action was drastic but explained road conditions would continue to deteriorate unless drastic action was taken.
Commissioners took no formal action on Nelson's report but questioned him about the plan. Coverage of the meeting and discussion was published in The Daily Leader at that time.
Kearin said that after the work was done, she began conducting research and came to understand that rising costs were driving decisions. Kearin also indicated that her research showed paved roads were converted to gravel as a result of a low volume of traffic.
"We get a lot of traffic," she stated, citing prior road counts which indicated several hundred cars each day used the roadway.
In addition to objecting to having the road graveled, Kearin objected to the quality of gravel used. She indicated it contained large rocks which were being thrown into ditches.
She said her research indicated three questions should be addressed prior to returning a paved road to gravel: What criteria is being used to make the decision? What does a cost-benefit analysis show? What type of techniques could be used to preserve pavement and avoid returning a road to gravel?
Kearin also expressed the opinion that homeowners along the roadway should have been notified either by phone or by letter that the work was going to be done.
In speaking with commissioners during the community comments portion of the meeting, she used a prepared statement. Commissioner Deb Reinicke asked her to email this to commissioners.
Nelson was contacted following the meeting to explain the work which has been done. He said the work Kearin described is the first step in a project which will involve grinding up the pavement, before blading, crowning and packing the roadway.
The extra gravel was needed to help build up the base, according to Nelson.
"Unfortunately, it will be gravel for a while, but it will be a good road," he said in a phone interview.
In other business, the commissioners:
-- Approved two utility occupancy applications from Sioux Valley Energy.
-- Approved a utility occupancy application from NorthWestern Energy to install a new gas main along the SD-34 bypass from Washington Ave. to Union Ave. Due to a lack of clarity regarding this stretch of roadway, commissioners ensured the city had been contacted regarding this project prior to voting.
-- Approved three temporary special on-sale liquor licenses for Cam Shafer dba Sporty's Bar and Grill for weddings at Camp Lakodia on Sept. 26, Oct. 3 and Oct. 10.
-- Adopted the annual budget for fiscal year 2021, including a tax levy of 2.581 of which 2.472 was for the general fund and .109 was for county buildings.
-- Approved adding Greg Zimmermann to the Lake County Dive Team. In addition to being a firefighter and EMT, Zimmerman is certified for open water and ice dive operations and has completed advanced scuba training through the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
-- Adopted the Local Emergency Operation Plan. Shelli Gust, commission administrative officer, said Lake County Emergency Management Director Kody Keefer would be working with stakeholders to ensure they knew their responsibilities. She also reported the plan underwent the first major revision in 10 years.
By law, the LEOP is not considered a public document and is not open to review by the public.
-- Approved hiring temporary part-time employees to assist the Lake County auditor in processing absentee ballots. Auditor Paula Barrick reported that more than 1,600 Lake County voters had requested absentee ballots for the general election.
-- Adopted a resolution which designates the Lake County 4-H Center as a polling place for three of the six precincts that have been voting at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse. Precinct 5 (Herman and Winfred townships), Precinct 6 (Farmington, Leroy, Clarno and Orland townships) and Precinct 7 (Lakeview Township) will vote at the 4-H Center.
-- Learned the county had been awarded a Bridge Improvement Grant in the amount of $21,200 for preliminary engineering on the next planned bridge project in Lake County. Gust reported work will be done on the Stemper Bridge located on 456th Ave. north of SD-34.
-- Acknowledged receiving written notice that the Veterans Honor Park committee will be selling raffle tickets on Thursday evenings beginning Oct. 1. The notice indicates, "This will be going on until we either hit our VHP goal or we get tired."
-- Approved two plats, one in Konshak's Addition in Leroy Township to resubdivide an existing farmstead away from adjacent farmland, and the other in Woodland's 58th Addition to subdivide a lot for future single-family residential development.
-- Approved a conditional-use permit for Jamie and Crystal Marlow to build an oversized unattached garage in Wentworth Township.
-- Following an executive session, accepted the resignation of Robert Johnson in the Highway Department.