County commission discusses roads, rock

The Marion County Commissioners met for the first time in 2020 on Monday, Jan. 6 where they spent the majority of the time talking about the roads and rocks used on the roads of Marion County.

Road and Bridge County Engineer Brice Goebel opened up the business part of the meeting by talking about his recent findings on the local rock quarry.

Goebel said, “Harshman dropped the ball and they are basically redoing a bunch of quality tests. So right now they only have one type of rock that is approved for us to use. That is what we are dealing with right now.”

Commissioner Dianne Novak stated that she had been concerned about this and had been looking into it for months now.

“I hope you will be working closely with Sam (Harshman) to make sure we are buying the right ledge (rock) because we have not been, I don’t believe so, with those prices,” said Novak.

“Again, with the difference being where that rock is coming from on those ledges out there, they have to be vigilant enough with getting in the right spots out there because where they crush that material compared to where they pick it up can be a quarter to a half-mile away,” said Goebel. “Ultimately, they are working with the fact that their people are putting it in the right spot, too.”

Goebel stated that Harshman realizes that by not having his rock quality accurate, it is hurting his business as well. He also said that the quarries in Woodbine had only had one test for quality done in 2019 while Novak argued that they had multiple tests done.

“I know one time you said you wanted to do the Northern half from Hamm (quarry in Woodbine) and the Southern half from Harshman. Have you been doing that?” asked Novak.

“For the most part. We haven’t done a lot of work up North. In fact, we haven’t done much at all in the last two weeks with the quarries being closed and a lot of the drivers being on vacation. But yeah, that is still the plan,” said Goebel.

Commissioner Randy Dallke brought up using the pricier but higher quality Waverly rock.

“I talked to Sam about continuing or increasing getting that rock and having Expedition Wind using that too,” said Goebel.

Novak brought up that the county had recently paid a contracted hauler $21.75 per ton to bring in the rock when the county has been able to get it at $15.39 a ton. Goebel and the commissioners agreed that it should all be $15.39.

The commissioners and Goebel also discussed the use of sand and how it helps with filling in some of the gaps in the rock in the roads, but it does not solve all of the issues.

“Between the rain, the wind, snow and the ice, we just got hit really hard again,” said Goebel.

Commissioner Jonah Gehring expressed appreciation to Goebel for his work.

“Thank you for going out to Chisholm. It was a rapid response in my opinion, and it was great. Thanks for going out to East Shore, as well” said Gehring. “I just learned that south of 120th, south of the church, there are 28 houses in a five-mile stretch so it impacts a lot of people.”

Becker commented on how the moisture quickly reveals soft spots on the roads.

“We have to be careful and not go out there and try to repair roads when they are too wet or we make more of a mess. Our blade men aren’t getting over the roads every day in their normal rotations, but they are trying to keep checking in on their trouble spots,” said Goebel.

Lehigh Township Trustee Linda Peters asked to speak regarding the issue of the rock and the roads.

“I am concerned that it’s been 10 months since we ‘resolved’ the rock issue with Harshman’s, and 10 months later talking about rock at Harshman’s. Hopefully, we will finally get this resolved. It doesn’t sound like we have ever had these issues with other quarries but just keep hearing about this with Harshman’s,” said Peters.

“Well, to say that we had no problem with Woodbine, the guys did get some bad loads from them last year in that there was a bunch of clay and stuff in there and they said at the time, which was before I got here, that they were not going to go with Woodbine anymore. I talked to the quality control lady and she didn’t know anything about it,” said Goebel.

“I mean, March 10, we decided it had to be KDOT approved and now we are still talking about it with Harshman’s,” said Peters.

“And with Harshman’s, the guys go down there and they pull out of the same pile that they usually do when they get that material and we are just going with that is the state-approved material so that is just something that we need to follow up on,” said Goebel.

Goebel explained that this problem does not occur with Waverly as it is higher quality material and has to be brought in. It is the other rock that the county wants to purchase locally that has been the issue. He explained that it would cheaper if they could bring it all in by railroad car rather than truckloads.

“I guess it would be in Mr. Harshman’s best interest to finally figure out where the KDOT stuff is and only be giving it to us,” said Peters.

“And honestly, that’s what I brought up with Sam. And he said ‘I’m so sorry.’ He dropped the ball when it comes to qualities and giving it to us and dealing with these tests and stuff like that,” said Goebel.

“And yet, the taxpayers continue to pay this to try and get our roads fixed and it’s a very vicious circle,” said Peters.

“And I would love to say that we can start hauling that Waverly rock all over the place, but again, we’ve got to be careful where we drop that Waverly rock if we’ve still got to fix the roads as far as ditches and everything else because then we just waste the Waverly rock,” said Goebel.

“The only thing I am gonna say is 10 months ago, this all came about and we started getting KDOT rock. It got lax and we brought it back. And now he is apologizing again and we are starting. This is kind of a cycle here that we need to get stopped,” said Peters.

Goebel listened and acknowledged Peters.

“I’m gonna answer your one question, because Brice, you weren’t here, but Woodbine, when we did get that one load with clay in it and when we changed the kind of rock that we got, they gave us free rock. They have always said they will change stuff for us if we aren’t happy and they have. They have given us multiple free loads and they do stand behind their products.

Dallke asked how over budget the roads were, but County Clerk Tina Spencer pointed out that the 2019 budget amounts would not be available yet.

At the close of the meeting, Peters again asked for more accountability on getting the roads repaired.

Dallke, Becker, Novak and Gehring all agreed that action needed to be taken to prevent the county from ending up in the same spot of not getting KDOT approved rock again.

Crofoot appeared confused stating that Harshman’s had not actually admitted to giving non-approved rock. Novak reminded him that Goebel had clearly stated that Harshman had stated that and had apologized for it. She stated that she had also spoken with Harshman who had said it was not KDOT approved.

The commissioners went back and forth about different methods and precautions the county could take to ensure that the quarry delivered the correct rock. But the commissioners eventually agreed as Peters pointed out, that ultimately the work should fall on the quarry to make sure the rock was KDOT approved rather than the county to ensure it.

Dallke suggested Novak make a motion to the county to ask for compensation for the bad loads they had received since it was not the county’s fault and had cost the taxpayer money. Novak made a motion for County Attorney Brad Jantz to draft a letter to be sent to Harshman asking for some type of compensation. The motion was seconded and approved unanimously.

In other business, the board:

n approved the transfer of the 1987 Ford Pickup to the city of Hillsboro. Hillsboro has been using it as a rescue vehicle and will now be using it as a salt spreader.

n heard from Isaac Hett regarding the heated dock. The work will begin soon as long as the lake does not freeze over. They will also plan to redo the lockers out there while the dock is being done.

n also heard from Isaac Hett regarding a potential dog park on the southeast part of the lake. The Marion Girl Scouts have done the work to get the donations for the fencing and other supplies needed. Hett explained that the nearest dog park is in McPherson so there is a need for one in Marion County. The commissioners and Hett discussed possible issues including liability with dog bites and other issues. They will continue to look into and speak with Jantz on liability issues.

n Dallke brought up having a metal structure built to house Marion Co Lake tractors and trailers to protect them from the sun and from vandalism. Hett will check into prices.

n Novak wanted to appoint a person to the Planning Commission to represent her district but brought up her conversation with Jantz the potential of some candidates being poor choices due to being other committees. The commissioners discussed the topic of the possibility of a conflict of interest in serving on various boards. Jantz was absent due to illness making it difficult to get clarification on specific situations.

Novak moved to appoint Larry Cushenberry to the Planning Commission. Dallke asked if someone who has worked for the county and been released should be chosen to work on a county board. Novak argued that he absolutely should be and then stated that all of her appointments are always met with dissent. Novak withdrew her motion when the commissioners could not agree on the process and none seconded the motion.

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