by Patty Decker
Farmers in Liberty, Menno and Lehigh townships are losing patience with the Marion County Commission because the dirt roads they need to access their properties haven’t been maintained for months.
Marion Countian Linda Peters, and others, spoke about the road issues at Monday’s commission meeting.
Peters, the Liberty Township trustee, chairperson of the county road and bridge committee and a taxpayer, said almost 1.5 years ago she asked Commissioner Kent Becker to drive the roads.
“Kent told me, at that time, that he couldn’t believe these roads were in this bad of shape, and he concurred that something needed to be done,” Peters said.
Eight months later on Dec. 18, 2017, she said the committee charged with developing ideas came back with its recommendations.
One reason for the roads committee was to facilitate communication between county entities and taxpayers about what was considered “a serious concern.”
Peters said: “That is the only recommendation to this date that has been fulfilled from the results of this committee.”
In addition, Peters said she was shocked by Commissioner Randy Dallke’s negative reaction at the last county meeting when he said he didn’t want a public meeting to evolve into “a mess.”
Dallke, at that time, also said he has no problem with people speaking (about roads), but he will support his road and bridge department, and Jesse Hamm, supervisor.
Peters said on Aug. 9 at the Liberty Township annual meeting, the group had an organized agenda to discuss.
Attending that meeting, Hamm said he was sorry, but that District 1 had not had graders in their area for about 3.5 months, but he had a plan to bring graders in.
“When we asked when that might be, such as one month or three months, Jesse stated he would not give any time commitment as to when that would happen,” she said.
“But, only when he could get to it and that we needed to be patient.”
Betrayed and frustrated
In addition to the problems with dirt roads, Peters reviewed other remarks by Hamm at the annual meeting.
When asked about the unmowed weeds on the sides of the road resulting in more destruction to the road, Hamm said they planned to mow only along blacktop roads because the county had only one mower.
And, he added, the department is out of money.
“Several individuals in the audience guessed they would need to mow around their fields, but what about further down the road where residents didn’t have mowers?”
Hamm told Peters, and others, that he had an employee who was mowing his own ditches.
“Jesse told that employee that it was OK for him to log those hours, and to make sure he filled his gas tank from the county,” she said.
Hazardous driving signs
Peters said signs were also brought up at the annual meeting with concerns that some roads needed to be indicated as “completely gone,” or “hazardous for driving.”
Until the roads were fixed, Peters and other Township members, believe someone driving in those locations could be seriously injured or even killed.
Hamm apologized, she said, regarding the condition of the roads, and Becker told us that we shouldn’t be “too hard on Jesse, as his was a thankless job.”
When the meeting ended, Peters said the people in Liberty Township felt “betrayed, frustrated and confused.”
“We could not believe that after showing our county commissioner (Becker) the roads nearly 1.5 years earlier, and he agreeing that they were in horrific shape, that we were then told the county had completely stopped working on them for three months,” she said.
“Some of the seriously damaged roads from 1.5 years ago are now completely gone.”
Public talks first
For Peters, as if all the other things that transpired weren’t bad enough, a statement made at the previous commission meeting infuriated her.
She said the statement was: “Mrs. Peters knows about the squeaky wheel and that she is using her power to get things done.”
In addition to disliking that type of tactic, she said, I further believe there is no place for that process in government.
“When addressing problems like no mowing, lack of mowing, lack of mowers, tractors needing repairs, no graders in the districts, rock not meeting specifications and the serious conditions of the roads—these things should have been brought to the commission by the supervisors—not the concerned public.”
A meeting is planned in the near future so that county officials and the public can all meet and get a plan in place.
In other business, the commission:
◼ approved Commission chairwoman Dianne Novak’s recommendation to nominate Lloyd Meier to the Marion County Community Economic Development Corp. The recommendation passed 2-1 with Dallke the dissenting vote.
◼ discussed general information about appointing an interim planning/zoning/environmental health director, and also discussed the next steps for appointing an interim Emergency Medical Services director. Ed Debesis, the current EMS director, is slated to leave Sept. 20.
◼ talked about Emma Tajchman, who was the previous planning and zoning director. Her last day was Friday, which is why an appointment needs to be made as soon as possible.
◼ approved Sharon Olmstead as the planning and zoning interim director.
◼ heard from Bud Druse, transfer station director, regarding a repair needed on a crane, which packs trash into trailers at the transfer station.
Druse said the crane has had multiple repairs this past year and all relatively inexpensive (under $1,000).
n had a public hearing for Rural Water District No. 4 for the purpose of expanding their district boundaries. The district already had one hearing, but they haven’t taken all the necessary steps for notification, so they had to have another.
◼ went into executive session for personnel matters.