Rock talk dominates commission conversation

The Marion County Commission was between a rock and a hard place in looking at one part of its road problems during Monday’s meeting.

Jokes aside, commissioner Dianne Novak spoke with Warren Harshman, Sam Harshman and Frank Rocker, who represent Harshman Construction, which was paid $500,000.

“In a recent report,” Novak said, “some of the rock (from Harshman’s) doesn’t meet KDOT standards—too soft, lacks cohesiveness and breaks down too quickly.”

The type of rock used on the county’s gravel roads isn’t solely based on the rock, though, she added.

“The same report stated that the county is blading these roads too often,” she added. “We can’t blame rock solely as the problem, but we think rock is a good place to start.”

The road problem has been an ongoing issue, Novak said, and a solution to the complaints remains elusive.

In addition to residents stating the troubles range from rock that’s too soft that it turns to dust to it’s so sharp that it punctures tires.

Warren Harshman said they can make the rock however the county wants it, but he added he can’t defend the quality of rock in Florence.

Commission chairman Kent Becker said one of the main complaints he has heard is that a product can be put on a road, and then two weeks later there’s no rock left.

“I talked to one person this morning, and rock was put on the road, and he can’t tell it was done,” Becker said. “If it’s too soft of a product, it needs to be corrected.”

One of the concerns Novak also expressed was eliminating the perception of favoritism by Harshman. One way that could be done, she said, is to have other quarries haul to certain areas of the county.

Frank Rocker has been in the rock industry for nearly 60 years, and he said he has had an opportunity to work with many customers.

One concern, he said, is the in addition to the quality of the rock, the county needs to have a crown on their roads.

“Counties that don’t take that effort, and particularly this winter, are having trouble with their roads,” he said.

Warren Harshman said that if a county doesn’t have a good crown, the water will soak in and then freeze.

“It’s porous rock,” he said. “(Marion County roads) have had decades of not quite doing it right.”

Novak agreed, saying she realizes the roads aren’t being maintained properly, which is one of the reasons why they are seeking a county engineer.

Warren Harshman said that with the roads not crowned, the rock shouldn’t be blamed for the problems.

“That’s true,” Novak said, “But, today we are talking rock. My opinion is that we need to get a better quality rock, and to fix (the roads) one step at a time.”

Although it’s not his policy to bad-mouth a competitor, Warren Harshman said that when the wind farm was being built, Bergkamp Quarry was charged with supplying the rock. But, it was taken from that company and given to them because the Florence rock did meet their requirements.

When speaking about rock, Warren Harshman also wanted to offer some of his knowledge after being in the field so many years.

“For a one-mile 24-foot wide road, that’s one inch thick, a minimum of 500 ton of rock is needed,” he said. “But, that doesn’t cut it. The road should be four to five inches and should require 700 tons of rock.”

Novak said it’s what the report they have also recommended.

Warren Harshman added: “You are our boss. Tell us what you want us to do, and we will make it work.”

In other business, the county:

—approved the appointment of Tim Makovek as Grant Township clerk.

—heard from Rebecca Wingfield, register of deeds, on the quarterly report. In addition, she asked the board to consider ongoing off-site storage needs.

—reviewed employee evaluations in executive session. No action was taken.

—discussed possible changes to the county transfer station. Commissioner Randy Dallke, who joined the meeting about one hour late, said he would like to change floor heat to radiant heat. The commission unanimously approved the change.

—approved changing to insulated high track overhead doors at the transfer station. The vote was unanimous.

—discussion about the Expedition Wind project prompted the commission to retain attorney Pat Hughes for legal services on the project.

—discussed the county engineer position. The commission will review the job descriptions in an effort to decide what they want the position to include. Others options are to hire an employee or contract with a firm for services.

—voted to sign the sales agreement for the Bowron building.

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