Positive signs

Rural Marion County road signs installed over the last three years at a cost of $22,823 have more than paid for themselves in saved time and health of citizens as far as law enforcement and emergency office personnel are concerned.

Sheriff Lee Becker may wish at times that the signs were a little taller and County Emergency Medical Services Director Joann Knak may wish they were a little larger, but both are just happy the signs are there.

They wouldn’t want to go back to the way it was without the signs.

Becker said, “From our end of the road, the signs have just helped tremendously. As soon as a dispatcher hears an address called in, they know the area of the county it’s in.

“A deputy knows just where he’s going. Or, he can look up while he’s on patrol, and know where he’s at. He doesn’t have to sit and think, ‘Let’s see that’s six miles east I have to go from here, and then seven miles north, I think.’ He just knows where it’s at, and he goes.

“I like the heritage of old road names too, ‘Pilsen,’ ‘Canada’ or ‘Bruderthal,’ but I like alphabetical and numbered roads because they tell us where it’s at.

“There are new people out there too, families our people don’t know, and their addresses help us out.

“I remember the old days when we might have to hunt up and down in the dark for a place. At one home, they finally had to turn a light on so we could see them. As far as I’m concerned, the signs are well paying for themselves.”

Deane Olsen, EMS administrative assistant, said the signs are cutting response times of emergency crews.

“But I think it will help when everyone gets used to them, and they are really familiar,” she said. “Right now they may have to pause to think about it, and it takes concentration when you’re trying to get an ambulance out, and a crew on.”

Knak added that a responder getting an ambulance out may be mentally occupied with how they are going to handle somebody like a heart attack victim or an injury accident.

In addition, EMS is dealing with a large number of people, 87 certified volunteers in the county, who operate out of a number of places, she said.

“We have five ambulances in four locations, at Tampa, Hillsboro, Marion and Peabody,” she said. “We have first responder units, people with the same level of training but no ambulance transportation, they arrive and help stabilize a situation until an ambulance can get there, at Durham, Lincolnville, Goessel and Burns. Ramona is in the process of establishing one.”

On rural roads, Olsen said crews also need help to know which roads are passable, whether they are dirt only, graveled or hard-surfaced. She said a new color-coded map available from the Marion County clerk’s office to the public is very helpful “but not quite 100 percent accurate.”

Named roads, which run north-south, are numbered from the south, and numbered roads, which run east-west, are numbered from the west. For instance a residence on a numbered road in the first 100 block would be somewhere between the McPherson County line and Alamo.

Olsen said a responder knows that at least somebody in a 1600 or 1700 block is in the middle of the county.

Dennis Maggard, county traffic sign supervisor, said the signs were put up in 1997, 1998 and 1999, starting with rural secondary and paved roads, and continuing with equal numbers installed each year in each of the three commissioner districts.       

With more than a thousand square miles to cover, and two signs at each intersection, Maggard said it was a long job. He said there is a continuing job in replacing signs due to vandalism, theft and other damage.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in them, and a lot of people have told us they are nice,” he said. “If you live where one of the first signs went in, it’s three years old now, and if your sign was put in in 1999 you have one of the new ones.”

Beverly Cooper, county engineer office manager, said the $22,823 included the cost of the signs and accessories such as blade holders that went with them.

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