By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
At its Jan. 3 meeting, the Seward County Commission was approached by landowners expressing concerns about high truck traffic to the Arkalon ethanol plant and the resulting dust levels on a road in the eastern part of the county.
Road and bridge supervisor Tony Herrman, along with other staff, was instructed to bring back additional information regarding the number of landowners along the four miles of Road O and also running one-half mile east and west, as well as the square footage amounts to be assessed per property owner.
Herrman provided commissioners with those numbers at Tuesday’s meeting, and the board would eventually approve a plan to assist with the high dust levels on the road.
Herrman said he had assistance on the plan from the county’s geographical information system and planning and zoning departments, as well as administrator Mary Bloomer.
Before detailing the plan, the road and bridge department head said the county has dust issues on many of its roads that will likely never be solved.
“I do think, however, that if the commission makes a decision not to pave this road, I think there’s some things we can try in the spring time and possibly, hopefully, get some help from Mother Nature,” he said.
Herrman said Seward County has had less than half an inch of moisture since September making it difficult to maintain, blade and gravel roads. He said the best solution for now for Road O was to tear it up and reconstruct the first mile, which would be done by experimenting with some material.
“We’re always experimenting with different techniques and things that we learn and share with other counties, and it’s something that we can try,” he said. “We’ll spend some money doing it, but we can budget that or have that as part of my road improvement for 2011 and try to take that in as a top priority to try to improve that first stretch of road.”
The commission later voted unanimously to allow Herrman to go ahead with the plan for the first mile of the road. He said the materials for the road would include Oklahoma road gravel, clay and sand.
“All three of those make a good combination to make a good subgrade and a good base,” he said.
Herrman said the road would likely get big traffic whether it is reconstructed or not.
“We have to build our roads to facilitate the 70,000 to 80,000-pound loads as if they were asphalt roads,” he said. “That’s what’s being trucked on our county roads – grain trucks, cattle trucks, oil field traffic. Even if everybody’s driving the maximum limits, state highway systems aren’t designed to handle some of the road traffic and the weights that we do, but we have to build the roads to facilitate what is being done in this county.”
As part of his department’s plan, Herrman said each year, the county tries to improve anywhere from six to 10 miles of road, and those upgrades have to be maintained.
“We could certainly put this in and try to get this as soon as we can in the spring time,” he said.
Herrman said maintaining Road O was part of the department’s budget, and therefore, the costs would be absorbed through that budget.
“This would be a priority for us, and we’ll do as many of these types of things we can,” he said. “There’s a point in time that I have to back off because I’m running out of money.”
Herrman said if commissioners wish to pave Road O in the future, the money, effort and material will be available.
“You’d have to spend that before you ever thought about doing an overlay,” he said. “You’d have to reestablish that base. The money we’re spending to do it would not be for not. The material’s good and would need to be used anyway, or we’d have to spend a certain amount of that to improve it enough to even go to oiling or asphalt or concrete.”