The Marion County Commission was asked at its meeting June 26 to look at alternative ways to maintain the county roads.
Linda Peters, a resident of the county for 44 years, and husband Van, are owners of land in Liberty and Menno townships.
“Much discussion about roads continues to plague our county, whether it’s been through large county meetings or small coffee shop groups, (and) to no avail,” she said.
A lot of the talk, Peters said, turns to “what should have been done,” or “who’s to blame,” rather than looking at the accomplishments with county roads and ways to make them better.
“I want to move forward starting today working with and alongside everyone that makes decisions about our roads,” she said.
“Several weeks ago,” Peters said, “I asked (Commissioner) Kent Becker to drive around the townships that he represents with me for the sole purpose of understanding the road system in this area.”
In addition, she invited the other commissioners to Liberty, Menno and Lehigh.
“I believe if the decisions are solely made through each of you how our county roads should be, then all of you need to personally drive all of them, not just where you live and reside,” Peters said.
Peters said she would propose developing a committee if the commissioners would consider it.
“The function of this committee would be to determine how the township road system is set up, taxing the townships and maintenance of equipment,” she said.
Volunteers from different townships, Peters said, are willing to step forward and serve on this type of committee.
Jesse Hamm, Road and Bridge superintendent, said for the past two years he has set new goals in December and January.
“Set aside are 60 miles of dirt road, and 12 to 20 miles for gravel rebuilds and tackling asphalt all at the same time,” he said.
When setting goals in 2017, Hamm said he believes they are reachable.
“We are in the seventh month, and are at 49.5 miles of dirt road that have been completely rebuilt,” he said. “We are also sitting at five miles of gravel road rebuilt and getting started on a big gravel job of 4.5 miles beginning next week.”
The flip side is personnel are spread really thin, he said.
“Last week we had four rebuild crews going as well as asphalt crew on asphalt road,” Hamm said.
Commission chairman Randy Dallke said 50 miles of rebuilt road was an accomplishment considering there are 600 miles of dirt, 800 miles of rock and 200 miles of asphalt.
“I envision this committee’s purpose is not to find fault or place blame or judgment on what has been done in the past, but I see this committee as trying to assist four individuals in finding ways to improve our road system,” Peters said.
What is a concern, Peters said, is that many of the county roads are beyond repair or needing to be closed.
“But, since agriculture is very predominate in these townships, everyone will still need to have access to their fields,” she said.
After about 30 minutes of discussion, Peters agreed to come back when the commissioners wanted to see them.
Becker said, “We would like to see you come back with an option or two, a way we can go or a way to go with the committee.”
Dallke said he would like to give permission to call the townships.
“There may be townships without trustees, too, and in those cases call me,” Becker said.