The Summerland Advocate-Messenger - Reliable, Trustworthy Reporting, Capturing The Heartbeat Of Our Community

By Sandy Schroth

Antelope County leaders vote to bond $3 million for road repair


The Antelope County Commissioners voted, last week, to issue $3 million in bonds to repair county roads.

All five commissioners voted aye to a motion made by commissioner carolyn pedersen, seconded by commissioner Eli Jacob, late in an eight-hour meeting at the courthouse in Neligh on July 14.

Proceeds from bonds will allow county employees to complete projects totaling more than $2.5 million yet this calendar year, road superintendent Aaron Boggs told the Advocate-Messenger.

"Big-money" overlay projects will go to engineer Brian McDonald in the near future for bid specifications with potential January 2021 letting. Bonding to fund those larger projects will be addressed then, according to Boggs.

Boggs had informed commissioners that about $570,000 is owed for recently completed work, and had recommended dividing the projects, with a second bond to potentially be issued for hot mix and concrete overlay projects next year.

The repair plan remains fluid, with some processes agreed to at the previous meeting now changed.

Boggs presented an updated spread sheet that included the status of oil road conditions, along with cost estimates for various repair options. He also identified phases of several projects that are planned under a road use agreement with Invenergy and a potential agreement with TC Energy.

Assistant road superintendent Casey Dittrich suggested a short-term "loan" from the Inheritance Fund to fund projects. However, commissioner Regina Krebs advised the entire $1.2 million balance of the Inheritance Fund is needed for necessary cash reserve for budget purposes.

Commissioner Dean Smith suggested deciding on a bond amount before giving Boggs further direction.

"Rather than having him bring us projects that go every different direction, because he doesn't know how much he will be able to spend...we need to decide how much we are going to bond for," Smith said. "Then he can put together a plan on where and how it is spent."

Smith said early in the meeting that he could not justify a bond of more than $2 million.

"Anything bigger than that is going to require too much levy increase to make payments, for my comfort level," he said.

Krebs said grinding asphalt roads and returning them to gravel can come from the annual road budget and, although they do not need to be done immediately, they need to be part of a plan so no overlay dollars are spent on them.

"The last thing I want to do is add a bond to our taxpayers and all we've accomplished is 'Sinclairing' roads," she said. "If we are going to bond for 10 years, we have to have a long-term plan for these roads...We have averaged three quarters of a million dollars patching county roads and it's literally got us nowhere...We can spend three quarters of a million dollars grinding up some of these roads within our normal budget and accomplish something if we use the bond to fix the paved county roads.

"Our discussion last week, by the time it was done, as we were going through those roads individually...the projects got smaller and smaller until we ended up with nothing but a whole bunch of 'Sinclaired' roads, because we have no plan."

She said she would rather pay 1.25% interest now than to try and absorb a 20-plus percent increase in the cost of a project five years from now.

"Your bond isn't even going to be paid off before those roads are going to need attention again," commission chair Charlie Henery said. "We are going to have to be very choosy and put some of these roads back to dirt, I know people don't like to hear that."

"We need to look at the oiled roads we want to keep," Pedersen said.

Smith said he had suggested, a year ago and again this year, grinding most of the miles that have been ground thus far.

"I need some other suggestions from the rest of you, what other roads we are going to grind? Or is it easier to say which roads we are going to keep?...Ash Fall Road...Royal Road ...Orchard Road."

He suggested grinding the roads south and west of Brunswick and opined the Copenhagen Road is not a candidate for grinding. Henery added the Neligh-Pierce Road and two miles of the road east of Neligh be kept as paved roads, and Jacob added the road west of Clearwater.

Interlocal agreements presented by Boggs to cover road work done on county roads that run through village and city jurisdictions was tabled, pending a few changes requested by commissioners. The agreements, based on a template obtained from the Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency, cover road maintenance, repair, resurfacing and snow removal, along with a diagram identifying roads specific to each municipality.

The agreements basically provide county labor at no charge with the cities required to pay for materials and contracted labor costs. Snow will be plowed, but not hauled away by the county.

"Snow removal – we are already there. We are not wasting anything by pushing snow," he said. "I've always told the guys there's no reason to drive over snow."

Dittrich reported that $314,000 worth of projects had been "obligated," or approved for reimbursement, by FEMA to date. "Obligated is good," he said. "That means that we are at 100% for the paperwork."

He said the FEMA deadline is Sept. 21. However, deadlines have been extended for completion of some projects, including the "Crumly" project north of Royal.

The document he presented also included a few projects that the local officials are "battling" regarding estimates.

David Owenby, on behalf of Invenergy, presented a petition signed by neighboring landowners to a mile of 841 Road, the company asked to be closed, between 510 and 511 avenues in Stanton Township. Owenby confirmed the company wanted to use the roadway for a private driveway to a wind turbine.

A Jacob motion to authorize Payne to verify signatures, McDonald to conduct an abandonment study and setting a public hearing, was seconded by Pedersen and carried on a 5-0 vote.

Duane Childers addressed the leaders regarding a portion of 511 Avenue, between 840 and 841 roads, in the same area as the requested abandonment, that was also included in an RUA with Invenergy, although designated for empty load use only.

Childers said it had always been a minimum maintenance road but had got progressively worse.

"I am going to flat out attribute it to poor grading by the county," he alleged, adding it had gotten worse with excessive use by Invenergy. He said neither the county nor Invenergy would claim the road.

"So, nobody's done a thing and all we have is a big soup hole. Part of that, I'll attribute to the county because when they go down our roads, nobody knows how to make a crown," he said. "Also, Invenergy has pounded the road with their trucks and such."

When specifically asked by Smith if there had been loaded Invenergy trucks on the road, Childers answered, "Yes."

After discussing drainage issues in the area, Boggs, Dittrich, Owenby and Childers discussed options and a plan was formed to mitigate the issue. No official action was taken by commissioners.

The commissioners interrupted road and bond discussions, convening as a board of equalization to hear seven valuation protests, as scheduled by assessor Kelly Mueller-Oltjenbruns. Mueller-Oltjenbruns said most had been previously resolved.

In other business, the commissioners:

~Approved access permits for approximately a dozen sites for TC Energy, with two denied, on the recommendation of Boggs and Dittrich;

~Approved five underground permits submitted by Black Hills Corp., to bore under the Oakdale Cut Across (844 Road/524 Avenue) in Oakdale Township;

~Approved two access permits for Niewohner Grandchildren's Partnership, on 842 Road and 516 Avenue, in Stanton Township, pending Boggs' inspection of sites and approval;

~Approved agenda, payroll and vendor claims and minutes of June 23 and July 7 meetings, with corrections and additions;

~Heard from Payne that pledge collateral held at Pinnacle Bank included $250,000 FDIC insured and $1.5 million, which she planned to request be increased by $600,000 to cover the month's claims;

~Heard from Payne that FEMA had approved additional payments totaling $33,664.89, with the NEMA portion yet to be received;

~Received veteran's service officer Dan Nelson's quarterly report and budget request; and

~Heard from zoning administrator Liz Doerr on zoning office activity, including grain bins, a new house in the Creighton area and potential feed yard and hog barn, in addition to her monthly permit report.


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