County roadwork spikes some heated discussions

By Deb Hendrickson

Roadwork projects currently being done around the County dominated the discussions held at the Bennett County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, August 5 in the courtroom at the Courthouse. All board members were present.

The minutes from the July 15 regular meeting and the July 30 special meeting were approved.

According to Highway Superintendent, Justin Friese, work on 293rd Street East of Martin as well as work on 298th Street has been completed. The one-mile of roadwork on the Old Airport Road, located two miles to the South on Hwy. 73 is under construction.

Several residents living along Old Highway 18 were present to discuss and present comments on what was being done about the proposed repair work on the Old Highway. 

The board had previously decided that the only alternative they had to make the necessary repairs on the surface of the Old Highway was to try to fill the big holes with gravel and see if the fill would hold. This process appeared to work but after further discussion, it was decided that by adding oil to the fill gravel and packing it with the city’s packer would be a better, longer-lasting solution. 

Friese reported that he was waiting on some oil that the city was getting sometime during the month of August to start the project. The use of the city’s packer and a portion of the oil will be traded out.

Commissioner Fanning stated that he is still getting calls from several county residents concerning the county purchasing reserve gravel from Commissioner Schomp. Fanning stated he thought this was a conflict of interest since Schomp is a County Commissioner. Bennett County State’s Attorney, Sarah Harris stated that because Schomp had abstained from voting on any motions made toward the purchase of his reserve gravel he was not in violation of any conflict of interest issues. Schomp once again stressed that if it is a problem, the county should stop using it.

Commissioner Kraft stated that roadwork was planned and budgeted for in last year’s budget on a road out by his residence that had not been started yet and that there were materials close by to do the work. 

Steve Hahn was present at the meeting to report on the status of his portion of the work he was contracted to do on the County Line Road. He stated that the road was done. They are currently seeding and finishing up on the gravel work which should all be completed within the next 8-12 days. 

Fanning made a motion to make the $129,000 progress payment  to Hahn Construction as per the contract. Commissioner Kirk seconded and the motion carried. 

Tom Wilsey from Brosz Engineering attended the meeting to report on their portion of the roadwork being done on County Line Road as well as to ask about the possibility of extending the contract another 60 days. There was some discussion about this because the original contract had previously been extended once and the board felt that they really didn’t want to approve another extension. There were some motions on the table but they failed to get a second. The issue was tabled and will be on the agenda for the next meeting.

   Since the County Highway Department is currently $80,000 over budget for the year and will need to be supplemented, discussion was held about what the game plan might consist of for the rest of the year. It was the general consensus of the board to finish the existing projects and then not to take on any more new projects for the rest of this year. Some discussion was held concerning the installation of culverts. This item will be addressed on an as-needed basis.

Friese stated that the new, recently-purchased John Deere loader was spewing out oil so is now in Rapid City getting a new motor installed. It will be down for about three weeks but fortunately it is still under warranty. Friese will also do some research on purchasing a used tractor for mowing with a limit on the purchase price around the low end of $40,000.

Some discussion was held about the board’s previous decision at the July 31 special meeting to pay off the highway department’s equipment debt. After reconsidering doing so, Commissioner Schomp made a motion to hold off on the payoff and to keep making the required payments as scheduled. Kirk seconded and the motion carried.

More research is being done concerning which online auction service, Purple Wave or BigIron, would be the best source to list the county’s surplus equipment on. Once the decision is made, Auditor Angie Hicks can move forward with the advertising process.

Schomp stated the names of several people interested in serving on the weed board if the board decides to move forward with the idea. The names will be kept on file for future reference. In the meantime, the highway shop has a supply of Milestone on hand if people want to purchase it through the county.

Schomp moved to approve Steve York as the county’s new highway laborer at $13.00 per hour rectroactive to August 4, 2020. Kirk seconded and the motion carried. 

With nothing else on the agenda, the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting is August 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the Courthouse.

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