Notes from Commissioner Galen Niederwerder

The Meade County Commission met in regular session Wednesday, March 22nd.  Here’s what happened.

The main subject, as it often is for county government, was roads.  With the recent slow-moisture event in parts of the county, we had one gentleman on Pleasant Valley Road give a report during our Public Comment session, and the commissioners received several phone calls regarding Tilford Road, Bear Butte Road and Elk Creek Road on the muddy conditions.  (I had to report that, unfortunately, the roads in the Viewfield area are in good shape, as we received very little moisture.  I think everybody in this area could stand some muddy roads about now.)

Our Highway Superintendent, Lincoln Schuck, advised the commission that crews were out blading as we met or would be out the next day on these and other roads that were also muddy.  He explained that with this being the first moisture event after Pleasant Valley Road and Tilford Road were re-gravelled last fall, the condition of the roads are much worse than they would normally be, and if, after they’ve been worked a few times, the conditions are not satisfactory, will spread some rock to try to balance out the clay content in the gravel.

You know, I and all the commissioners realize the frustration everyone experiences when road conditions get bad.  It seems like it’s either very dry, and they’re wash-boardy and rough, or, when we finally get a little moisture, they’re muddy and slick.  Trying to find the perfect balance between the correct clay content to provide smoothness when it’s dry and rock to provide traction when it’s wet is elusive.  Ironically, I’ve heard from people critical of the gravel from the Cammack Pit because it has too much clay and becomes very slick when wet; and I’ve heard from people who’ve told me they need some of that good gravel from the Cammack Pit for the county road by their place, because the gravel on their road is too rocky.  Whaddayado?

Believe me, the commission and the highway department are frustrated, too, when roads get bad.  The commission tries to fund the highway department so it has all the resources needed, and set policy to allow them to get and keep the roads in the best shape possible.  Last year, the highway budget was over $7 million, the most ever.  The highway department crushed more gravel, and laid more gravel than it ever had.  Your tax dollars purchased 10 new road graders a few years ago. Last year, Lincoln scoured government surplus outlets, and replaced our 50-year old Oshkosh snow plows with 25-year old Oshkosh snow plows. The county just bought a new mower with tree-cutting ability, and a new rotary snow plow that should have been purchased during the winter of 1985.  Wouldn’t you know - as soon as it was delivered, the temps jumped to 70 degrees, and all the snow melted.

We heard via email from one landowner that they feel they pay enough in property taxes to have decent gravel on their roads - and they’re absolutely right.  And speaking of property taxes.  About 58 cents of every property tax dollar you spend goes to the schools, 11 cents to cities, 4 cents to taxing districts: road, paving, fire, ambulance, and townships; not the county.  Even though you’re billed by and make your check out to Meade County, most of it’s just passed on.  Of the approximate 27 cents that goes to the county, about half goes to the highway department.  So, of every tax dollar you spend, about one dime goes to roads. Believe it, or don’t, but we do the best we can with what we got. 

One thing we are going to be able to finally do is fix the hill on Elm Springs Road north of Wasta by Mel and Dorothy Anderson’s place.  The low bid of just over $100,000 by Dakota Prairie Landscapes of New Underwood was approved, and hopefully construction on lowering the grade and fixing the curve will commence very soon.  Also, the guard rails will be installed soon on High Meadows Road.  So there is some progress.

Our Veteran of the Month is Donald “Dean” Vance, one of our few remaining WWll vets. He joined the Navy at 17 in 1942, and as the Senior Signalman on the USS Commencement Bay, was one of the first Americans to learn that Japan had surrendered.  He is a former Commander and Vice-Commander of the VFW, and drove the DAV van for several years.  What a privilege to honor him.

Well, keep praying for rain.  God Bless Meade County.