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By Sandy Schroth

Commissioners grant two of six Summerland driveway permits


March 12, 2020

Antelope County commissioners met March 3 in their meeting room at the courthouse in Neligh, with consideration of six driveway permits for the new Summerland school included on the meeting agenda.

Steve Thiele of Clearwater was present, representing both the school district and the builder, Hausmann Construction.

The county leaders gave unanimous approval for two of the applications, as temporary construction driveways and passed a motion to require a traffic study as part of the requirement for consideration of permanent permits.

A 30-foot wide driveway off Summerland Road will be the primary construction access to the site. A secondary access permit was granted off the Orchard Road, with stipulation the county road foreman be contacted prior to each use. Aaron Boggs, foreman and interim road superintendent, requested the notification in order to arrange traffic control if needed.

After lengthy discussion, the commissioners voted to add the condition for a traffic study to be conducted and sent to the county’s highway superintendent, Brian McDonald, prior to consideration of the permanent driveway permit applications.

McDonald advised his concern is the impact additional traffic from driveways will have on the intersection.

“They are basically taking a small town and putting it in the middle of two roadways. I think before you grant permanent access, a traffic study needs to be done that says how much more traffic is going to be generated by this school at these intersections; and they need an analysis to say, basically what the impact is (for) each of those driveways on that intersection,” he said. “There’s been some discussion of placing a stop sign on the north-south road, which I don’t think you can get a warrant to do. Putting up stop signs on a major road that people expect to go through…is an issue. I think you create more traffic problems with that.”

McDonald said a study that will identify effects on the intersection will include a count of existing traffic and proposed school-related traffic, including data from the school - how big it’s going to be, how many kids, how many teachers and where they come from.

“The big thing with the school is, you’re looking at 3:30, the bell rings and (what) the cuing onto that road is going to look like when you’ve got two driveways,” he said. “I can see scenarios when you’ve got people going down to where you want a stop sign and backing up through both of those…You can’t fix this with a stop sign. Stop signs don’t slow down traffic, especially when you’ve got an expectation of a through road. It’s a major road. Just to throw up a stop sign actually makes that more dangerous.”

He estimated the price tag for the study at $5,000 to $6,000 and advised the commissioners that by deeming it a requirement for permit consideration, the school district will assume the cost.

A grading plan developed by an engineer was also discussed. The plan includes reshaping the ditches “a little bit to get the water going where we need it to,” according to an engineer with Olsson & Associates. He said the grading will not negatively impact anything and all drainage will end up at the same location it currently does. He indicated the ditches could be left as they are, but it would result in two ditches running parallel.

McDonald advised he will review the grading plan to assure road standards are met and make a recommendation to the commissioners at the next meeting.

“I think it’s in the county’s best interest to have Brian review the grading, even if it is minor, just to make sure that we don’t create a problem, allow something that will negatively impact on the neighbors,” said former road superintendent Casey Dittrich. “It doesn’t sound like that’s an issue but in the past, we’ve always taken those channels.”

Commissioner Dean Smith asked Thiele about plans for multiple driveways.

“I’m a little bit curious about what your plans are on this design stage. Right now, you’ve got four driveways designed into it, so some time you’re going to have to change the design if those driveways don’t go through. So you need to know that,” Smith said. “I have looked at and driven by three schools that have been built like this. I don’t know the age, I would say they are all older. I have not found one that has more than one driveway…They come off a state highway and they turn into the lane and there’s one driveway going into the parking lot.”

Thiele responded, “I don’t know that it’s fair to compare two or three other school sites across the state, not knowing enrollment numbers, not knowing what they had to do to adapt their facility to the site. It’s a good observation, I’m just not sure it’s a fair comparison without more data to make sure its all apples to apples.”

McDonald said more than one drive would not be approved off a state highway.

Thiele asked about steps following completion of the study.

McDonald advised the commissioners will have the option to either to approve it or disapprove recommendations and vote to make improvements or defer those improvements to the school district.

“The process makes sense to me. I think we talked about it in rougher terms back in January when we brought our conditional-use permit application and we talked about a traffic study,” Thiele said.

“I guess if I’m going to leave here with a slight frustration, it’s just going to be the timing of this, knowing when construction is supposed to start and knowing the timing of the last conversation. It took two months to get Brian involved in the conversation. But I understand it. We’re going to get it done. We’re going to come back with what you are asking.”

Dittrich also initiated discussion about preconstruction road analysis and load permitting.

“This is a commercial user driving down your roadway, and there’s nothing you can stop anybody from driving a nonpermitted load down your highway,” McDonald said. However, he added, “I have no problem with you guys doing road surveys anytime.”

Boggs was directed to video portions of Summerland and Orchard roads.

When asked by Dittrich if the builder would prefer permits for each oversized, overweight or overlength load or to engage in blanket permitting such as a road-use agreement, Thiele indicated preference for per-load permitting.

“That way we are putting that responsibility on the supplier to get the permits themselves and it’s not something the school district or Hausmann or anybody else is responsible for,” he said. “I think there’s value for both of us to have that agreement directly with the supplier of the material instead an agreement with two or three layers above that.”

He said prefabricated concrete components will be delivered from Omaha, via Highway 275 and some may be oversized loads. Concrete and steel had not yet been bid. Steel may come from Omaha or from Sioux City, Iowa, in which case it would come via Highway 20. Concrete is expected to come from a local supplier.

The leaders also entered a lengthy discussion on contracting part of the road department’s fuel, suggested in February by Smith as a price-saving measure. County attorney Joe Abler said he is investigating if the county can legally pursue such a contract. Abler questioned if a bidding process would be required.

After a side discussion regarding prepayment of other products, Henery suggested the commissioners “let Joe do his job.”

Abler promised to report back at the March 10 meeting.

Commissioner Regina Krebs, a certified public accountant, offered look up statute on prepayments and report back at the next meeting as well. Smith said he had read it and talked to Deann Haeffner from the state auditor’s office, who responded it was a gray area.

“I don’t see anything about it that is so extremely ‘gray,’” he said. “I just want to lock in some fuel at a lesser price than we have been paying.”

Boggs said it was locking in a price, not paying for fuel that had not been delivered, but said he would clarify down-payment requirements with the supplier.

Krebs said if no down payment is required, there should be no issue.

“I don’t see how this is any different that making a down payment on a vehicle or a down payment on a new software program,” Smith said. “I questioned both of those items…If there is an issue entering into a fuel contract, then we already have issues on two claims that were approved a couple months ago. Somebody give me some clarification on it that has more knowledge than I do on it, please.”

“You are referring to the claim on the Durango?” commissioner Charlie Henery asked. “That was not done with public money.”

When Smith questioned his statement, Henery said, “I should say ‘taxpayer’ money.”

County clerk Lisa Payne said the down payment came from the sheriff’s 2940 account.

“It is not tax asked by the public,” she said.

Smith opined 2940 funds are generated from taxpayer money.

“Taxpayer money is paying the bond yearly on the jail. There would not be any money generated without the use of taxpayer dollars,” Smith said. “That is not a private fund.”

Krebs advised disbursement rules are the same, regardless of whether they are taxpayer funds or other public funds.

Smith then questioned the account the software had been paid from. He said his reason for asking was to determine what the software claim was for.

“The treasurer and the assessor came before the board a few meetings ago, explaining they were going to have to change their software, they came and discussed it with us,” he said. “This was never discussed with us.”

“I believe Sheriff Moore did meet with you guys regarding future purchases of that state mandate that they had to have computers in every vehicle,” Payne replied.

Smith asked if she was sure it was the software in question.

Payne offered to look the invoice up and place a call to the sheriff’s department bookkeeper to ask questions via speaker phone. She left the meeting room.

“I found the invoice, I called Kathy to get a little more information, she was just getting to work and will let us know how many vehicle that was going in and that it’s a down payment and I think the total cost of that project is on that invoice and it did come out of the 2940 account,” she said when she returned.

Smith also indicated the sheriff’s budget included a $30,000 line item for purchase of a vehicle.

“We made a down payment on a vehicle, there was $30,000 budgeted and there’s still $30,000 in that account. I don’t understand…There was a down payment check written, where was that check written from and what was it coded against?”

His question was left on the table.

During discussion as the board considered approval of the Feb. 12 minutes, Smith raised concern regarding a statement made by Dittrich. He read from the minutes regarding temporary speed limits on 846 Road, “Everyone knows that speed limits cannot be enforced unless there’s a study and a resolution to do the same.”

“(It’s) what he said and that’s what needs to be in (minutes), but I just wanted to go back and touch on that issue,” the commissioner said. “I did not know that. It was not divulged at this meeting that there had to be a study done.”

The leaders also discussed the possible purchase of more road groomer units, brought to the table by Smith. He said he had received calls from multiple constituents with road issues.

Henery responded, “What I’ve found a lot of times this time of year Dean, those road issues need a maintainer to solve ‘em, so you’re talking a month or two out, as soon as it thaws.”

“The maintainer is your best option every time,” Boggs opined. “Something is better than nothing. The drag has it places. The groomer will have its places…covering ground, you are decreasing (time) substantially.

Henery agreed but advised waiting until FEMA reimbursements are received to make any equipment purchase decisions.

Asphalt millings stored at the Clearwater and Oakdale barns had not yet been ground. Questions were raised if it is too late for the procedure this year.

Smith commented, “If we don’t get that product ground, we won’t have anything to fix the road with and what do we do with other roads that are falling apart.”

Henery indicated the county has two windrows, at Brunswick and Oakdale, that have been waiting for oil product for two years.


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