Road and bridge issues became a focal point of the Harvey County Commission's meeting this week, as the governing body heard concerns raised by a citizen regarding a particular intersection while also discussing improvement plans for some roadwork.
Jack Bender came before the county commission Tuesday to voice his alarm regarding the lack of safety around the intersection of Highway 50 and Ridge Road. Bender said he has had multiple near-death experiences at that intersection and witnessed similar scenarios for other drivers as well.
Most notably, Bender said, a year ago he witnessed a car crossing Highway 50 on Ridge Road that barely escaped what could have become a massive fatality wreck, with cars turning left onto both North and South Ridge Road and a truck continuing through heading west on Highway 50.
"Let's get something done about that intersection, better traffic control. I know there have been fatalities there — I don't know how many," Bender said. "I think there at least ought to be a reduction of the speed limit in that area, some sort of sign that says 'dangerous intersection.' "
Bender noted that intersection also has a good deal of school bus traffic and while there are signs that illustrate no driving on the shoulder, he has seen traffic disregarding those signs at times. The crossing is one he regards as a "very dangerous intersection" that raises concerns for his own life and the lives of other county residents who frequently use those roads.
Commissioners shared those concerns and appreciated Bender coming forth. Commission chairman Chip Westfall also encouraged him to write letters to Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Julie Lohrenz and local politicians Sen. Carolyn McGinn and Rep. Stephen Owens to help expedite a response, as KDOT is currently working on its next 10-year plan.
"If we're going to get anything reconstructed out there or redesigned, it has to happen in the next 60 to probably 120 days or it'll get pushed back a decade," Westfall said.
With county representatives planning to attend KDOT's upcoming regional meeting in Great Bend, it was noted they would try to address those issues with the intersection of Ridge Road and Highway 50.
Harvey County road and bridge superintendent Jim Meier also brought forth an amended 2020 pavement improvement plan for the commission to consider on Monday, as the department is seeing some unexpected deterioration on some stretches of road that need addressed ahead of other planned projects.
The proposal would see hot-in-place recycling down on 38.6 miles of road around the county, including stretches of Ridge Road, N.W. 12th Street, E. First Street and W. Dutch Avenue. Ideally, Meier hoped for a quick turnaround so he could instruct MKEC Engineering to begin design and contract documents in order to get bids by the start of the year so work could begin in early spring.
It was noted the amended plan would defer 4.1 miles of overlay projects, but Meier assured the commission those could wait a year. The commission authorized staff to move forward sending the amended pavement improvement plan to engineers and brought back for final approval.
In other business, the county commission:
• Received gratitude from Bender for a Harvey County sheriff's deputy's assistance helping his wife get to her car in windy conditions last week, as well as from Commissioner Ron Krehbiel for the departments that responded to the Burrton grass fire over the weekend.
• Learned that County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber briefed county cities on last week's presentation from Waste Connections, with some hoping for an expedited response to the situation. While the commission is leaning toward abolishing mandatory recycling, it was suggested to wait until after the Council of Governments meeting Wednesday before taking official action. In the meantime, it was noted administration and staff could begin work on a potential resolution.
• Was presented with a draft inspection agreement to handle sewer, well and water inspections for the city of Halstead, with the commission seeing no issues and coming to the consensus for administration to move ahead with the agreement.
• Approved staff to handle warrants and payroll for next week, as the commission will not have its regular meeting.
• Heard about a couple of different exercises (one tabletop, one full-scale) held this week from Emergency Management Director Gary Denny, regarding emergency operations center communications and active shooter situations — the latter funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
• Learned that a tax sale publication notice will be going out on Nov. 9, with the sale scheduled for Dec. 13. Currently, six units are slated to be up for sale (though taxes can be redeemed on those properties up until the sales date).
• Tabled approval of Resolution 2019-23 designating county public holidays for 2020 until feedback is received from staff over preference of having a half day off on Good Friday versus a full day off on Christmas Eve (as well as estimates on the financial impact).
• Adopted Resolution 2019-24 waiving GAAP reporting for financial statements.
• Adopted resolution 2019-25 allowing for the transfer of Road and Bridge funds to the Special Highway Improvement fund.
• Authorized a contract with SJCF Architecture for a facility and needs assessment of the courthouse. Both assessments will cost a total of $35,000.