By Sandy Schroth

Antelope County commissioners consider bond to finance road repair


The Antelope County Commissioners are considering a bond to finance extensive road repairs.

“I think a big topic at this meeting will be what we will do with our oil roads, after our discussion last week,” commissioner Dean Smith said during the commissioners’ May 11 meeting at the courthouse in Neligh.

He had contacted Tobin Buchanan with First National Capital Markets, who had previously worked with the county, to inquire about bond terms to finance potential major repair costs, “to look at options on how we are going to go forward with these roads.”

Buchanan provided preliminary 10-, 15- and 20-year maturity rates for a $2 million road construction fund, anticipated to be a highway allocation bond, secured by the county’s annual highway allocation from the state of Nebraska, as well as county taxing authority. Expected allocations include $1.841 million for 2019-2020 fiscal year and $1.889 for 20-21.

Although interest rates fluctuate through the life of the bond, the beginning rate is projected at 1.25%, according to Smith. He said, according to documents provided by Buchanan, the debt service levy on the county’s $2.4 billion valuation would be .0089895, or $8.99 per $100,000 valuation, on a $2 million loan.

“Two million dollars is a lot of money…but it (doesn’t) get us very far on roads,” Smith said. “I’m not here promoting this necessarily, or really that I’m head over heels in favor of it. But I don’t know how else we can get to these roads.”

Road superintendent Aaron Boggs said 25 miles of oil roads need “dire attention right now.” He expected core sample results in a few days, adding that some roads are getting to the point that they will need to be closed.

Commissioner Regina Krebs stepped out of the room to “clarify a couple of things.” After speaking to Buchanan on the phone, she said the county is not limited to $2 million.

“We can just as easily do $5 million and we would have plenty of the backing on the highway allocation to make those payments,” she said.

Smith asked several farmers present at the meeting if the potential for a bond issue gave them a “bad taste.” No one objected to financing road repair with a bond.

Henery asked Boggs what he could get done with $2 million.

“Depends on what you guys want to do,” he said. “If you put it into landmarks we discussed earlier…around $300,000 to hot mix a mile …with that you could do six and one-half miles of just overlay.”

However, he cautioned that the figure was only a “rough number” for a two-inch overlay with a “leveling course,” and would vary dependent on the road and depth of oil required. He said there would also be costs to get some of the roads prepared for an overlay, including a leveling course that could cost as much as $150,000 per mile.

Other options for some “lower volume” roads include double armor coat with a product that is “more penetrating so it goes deeper into the surface,” Boggs said, estimating about $38,000 per mile.

Smith added, “We’ve got a lot more roads in the county other than just the asphalt, so if we go and designate money for those, we better make dang sure our gravel roads are getting graded and maintained like they should…That’s a struggle too. Part of the struggle I believe is because we’ve got a few too many guys trying to patch asphalt that’s beyond being able to be patched.”

Henery suggested that 71 miles of oil could be ground and replaced with Sinclair dirt for $5 million. He said they would take little maintenance and are able to handle heavy-load traffic.

Jacob questioned if roads in the Clearwater area repaired with millings “would take the weight.” Boggs said they would. He estimated the cost to overlay with the county’s recycled material between $30,000 and $80,000 per mile, compared to $300,000 for hot-mix overlay, not including prep work.

Boggs said the county now has 5,000 ton of ground concrete and not quite 21,000 ton of ground asphalt millings that cost $175,000 to grind, about double what the original estimate was, due to more product being harvested.

He also noted the road south of Clearwater had been patched but was breaking up around the patched areas. He said the road is included in the Thunderhead road-use agreement and would need to be compared to preconstruction conditions to determine if it falls under the wind construction company’s responsibility, and how hard the county would “push” for repair.

A special meeting is scheduled at 8 a.m. Friday, May 22, with the only discussion to be countywide road repair.

Additional information was presented by county attorney Joe Abler on an offer presented the previous week by sheriff Bob Moore, for the state of Nebraska to sell the county a communication tower for $1. The offer was presented to the commissioners May 5 by Moore, and subsequently tabled to allow Abler time to review documents.

Abler said a quit claim deed from the state had been forwarded to him from the sheriff’s office earlier that morning, with a “couple paragraphs” that reference “attached documents” that he did not receive.

“Basically, they’ll transfer it to you for $1…If you don’t use it for an emergency radio tower, it reverts back to the state, they take it down and you pay for it…according to what little paperwork I have,” the attorney said.

Smith said he wanted no part of the conditions explained by the attorney, hypothesizing “that’s why they are looking to give it away, I think it’s relatively expensive (to take down).”

“The other option we have to make the (Nebraska Regional Interoperability Network) system work for that surrounding (area) – Pierce, Knox, whatever – we’d have to build a tower to do it and this tower’s in place,” Henery said. “We need a tower to put those microwave dishes on and it’s capable of it.”

Smith suggested making a counteroffer, to exclude demolition requrements, while Jacob’s suggestion was splitting the cost, if need be.

“I can’t imagine it would be that expensive to take down a tower,” Jacob said.

Krebs opined that, either way, an official agreement is needed, not just a couple paragraphs on a piece of paper. Payne said the agreement was part of the deed, but Abler disagreed, saying the agreement was not attached.

Henery tabled the matter, pending further information.

Neligh city street superintendent Dean Bly asked the commissioners to consider repairing D Street, between the old Coover station on Highway 275 to 2nd Street, in exchange for the county’s share of the cost of a glass recycling bunker, a project the commissioners had previously committed to.

“We’re having hundreds of little potholes – quite a few anyway,” Bly said. “We just can’t keep our mix to stay in at all.”

He said the county’s half of the bunker cost is about $1,000. He estimated about two hours to repair the potholes.

“I think we agreed, one time, to pay up to $2,000, didn’t we?” Henery asked Bly.

“We’re supposed to help the cities anyway,” Jacob said. “I was always told, ‘a half a day, per town, twice a year.’”

Boggs agreed to do the work, but said, “We are kind of struggling to get our own work done…We can do it, we just got to find the right time to do it.”

The commissioners gave unofficial approval.

They voted 4-1 to purchase a riding lawn mower from Reinke’s Farm and City Service for $3,139, on a Jacob motion, with Pedersen seconding. Smith voted nay. A $3,147 quote for a John Deere machine had also been presented by custodian Ed Schindler. Both had 42-inch cutting swaths and mulching kits.

Pedersen informed her peers she had contacted three local lawn-care providers to ask for cost estimates. One was no longer in the business. One declined to give an estimate because “he was upset we were trying to undermine Eddie,” but would submit if it comes up for bids. The third one had not yet provided an estimate. Pedersen said one would do fertilizing, but neither will spray.

“With that, I would like to say Eddie does a wonderful job,” she concluded. “And it’s more than just mowing, it’s upkeep as well…and there’s state statutes out there.”

An agreement with First Concord Benefits, for administration of the cash-in-lieu health insurance stipend, was unanimously approved at the same amount as last year, $400 per employee, with an additional $350 “if we’re (Antelope County) not covering the spouse,” according to Payne. Consideration of the contract renewal was tabled May 5 and Payne contacted other county clerks in the area.

Pierce County offers $500 per employee; Madison County pays $350 to individuals and $500 to employees with families; and Holt County offers $400 to single and $800 to married employees. Payne said she also spoke to Judd Allen with the Nebraska Association of County Officials, who told her $400 is where most counties “are sitting this year,” but there is a gamut of ranges.

Payne told the leaders she forgot to add township gravel claims and would present them next month. A couple of townships have funds remaining from prior to township dissolution, which are designated to pay for gravel until the funds are depleted. Smith asked if the funds have to be specifically used for gravel, or if the funds could be used for asphalt road repair in the respective townships.

“It seems like we should be able to access that money for something other than gravel,” he said. “It could go on for a lot of years before that gets used up. It’s just kind of a shame that we can’t use that money.”

Henery and Jacob opined that asphalt roads did not fall under township responsibility, although Henery said the townships had paid for culverts smaller than 36-inch diameter. Krebs advised checking with the auditor, suggesting it may be an option to use the funds for maintenance of the designated township roads. Payne was directed to contact the auditor for an opinion.

A Smith suggestion for the county to purchase a recorder for the clerk’s use to prepare minutes, rather than using her personal recorder, failed to garner support. Payne, who said storage of saved recordings would be an issue, purchased the recorder so she can take it home to do work.

Pedersen said once the minutes are done and approved by commissioner vote, the recordings do not have to be saved.

“The minutes are your official record,” she said. “I had my own recorder too.”

While convened as a board of equalization, the commissioners unanimously approved four tax roll corrections presented by assessor Kelly Mueller-Oltjenbruns: Charles and Connie Pelster filed 2019 personal property; Barbara Murray, 2017 homestead exemption changed by state from 100% to 40%; Chad and Kim Marsh filed 2018 and 2019 personal property.

In other business, the commissioners:

~Approved administrative plats, as presented by Liz Doerr, zoning administrator, including one submitted by LJ Beckman for a 3.10-acre split in section 18 of Cedar Township, two miles east of Elgin; and one submitted by Steve Rasmussen to split a five-acre homesite from farm ground in section 3 of Crawford Township, about one-quarter mile east of the intersection of highways 20 and 13. Doerr said she issued a building permit for a machine shed with office on the property and eventually Rasmussen plans to build a house;

~Heard from Payne that she received an email from Frontier regarding its “Chapter 11 bankruptcy and so forth,” Frontier provides internet and phone service to a couple of county barns; there is no increase in Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance premiums; and that veteran’s service officer Tom Nelson did not need to ask direction from the commissioners regarding the “Veteran’s Day ceremony, due to the state directing all programs be virtual this year;

~Heard from Boggs that work will begin on construction of the new roadway on the easement purchased from Crumlys north of Royal;

~Took no action, pending update from McDonald, on releasing the bond included in a road-use agreement for the Upstream wind project; and

~Heard from Smith that he would like to continue making meetings available for public viewing electronically if logistically feasible; and that he requested an item placed on the agenda, “possible action on acct. 2940/Smith,” in case transfers would be needed.


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