Wind farm project traffic making roads unpassable

One of the roads being traveled heavily by the trucks bringing equipment for the wind farm above. Many of these roads are becoming basically untravelable. Patty Decker/Special to the Free Press
One of the roads being traveled heavily by the trucks bringing equipment for the wind farm above. Many of these roads are becoming basically untravelable. Patty Decker/Special to the Free Press
With the wind farm project nearly complete, Jon Halbgewachs, senior vice-president at Kirkham Michael Engineereing in Ellsworth, spoke with Marion County Commissioners Monday about roads near the construction areas.

In addition to making sure the roads used for hauling heavy wind turbine equipment are put back in the same condition as before, Kirkham Michael discussed a possible agreement with the county as being its engineering firm.

As the county engineering firm, Halbgewachs said they would be available on a monthly basis and attuned on what’s happening with the roads, bridges or other concerns.

Commission chairwoman Dianne Novak said she would like to talk to some people she knows about this service.

“I am thinking our needs are a bit more than one day a month,” she said.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said they have been involved with other engineering firm, and might want to continue on with some of those. Halbgewachs said that is the county’s call, but Kirkham Michael is more than willing to compete.

With the agreement, he said, it would be up to the county as to how they would want the roads handled.

Jesse Hamm, Road and Bridge supervisor, said he sees this as a good thing, and helpful to have engineering services available.

“I don’t think they are here to tell us how to blade a road,” he said. “They can go out and check crowns in the road.”

Novak added that even though Hamm and road crews know about crowns and other ditches, she is hearing from the public that one day wouldn’t solve the problem by getting things done.

Using a technician, Halbgewachs said, he could do road construction observation as the county is building something, spot checking, survey level, culverts and more.

Another concern Novak discussed was the good rock roads to include Limestone at 330th north is now almost a mud road.

“This rock road was not on the haul route,” she said.

However, one Kirkham Michael representative said the wind energy company is working on two roads using reclaimed rock.

“These roads are going to be better than they were before,” the rep said. “If there is obvious degradation on any of the roads, those roads will be filed with the wind farm officials and they will need to have rock put back.”

Novak said the amount of pickup trucks is a lot, but explained that she believes the roads should continually have rock added.

Randy Collett, city of Marion economic development director, representing Marion Advancement Campaign and the Bowron Buillding.

“We have lost a lot of buildings on Main Street to include Creamery and YMCA,” he said. “We did have two historic bank buildings on each corner (southeast and northeast) of Third and Main streets and then the Case Building.”

Some were lost by fire, by neglect or modernization, he said, and here today to not see the Bowron building added to that list.

“Our history and heritage is priceless and has been here since 1886 and a companion building to the Historic Elgin,” he said.

What is the commission’s legacy going to be regarding this building? Collett asked. It isn’t often history comes around with a second chance.

Collett said that at every MAC meeting, the Bowron building has been discussed, and we would like the county to deed the building to us.

“If the county does this, it will be in good hands. MAC is a 501-c-3, and it operates the Marion County Food Bank and Resource Center,” he said.

In addition, Collett said they do have access to the Marion Land Bank, which would augment some of the different options that might be available to MAC.

“It also represents the people of Marion County,” he said. “The building could be used as a retail space, small apartment and small 35-seat movie theater.”

Collett said demolition and reconstruction would be looking for about a 12-month timeframe for getting it back on the tax rolls, but it might be the following year.

“The longer we wait, the harder it will be (to get it back in shape),” he said.

Novak said she wanted the county to keep it.

Dallke said a real estate agent has looked at it, and wondered if the county is interested in selling it.

“The county spent $65,000 for the building, but also willing to recover some money for the county,” he said. “Not saying it isn’t a good thing to do.”

Commissioner Kent Becker said he understood it needs a new roof, and while the county could get some money for it, he also wants to weigh it against getting it back on the tax rolls.

“I would also like to see it on the tax rolls,” Dallke said.

The commissioners agreed to a contract with certain parameters on getting it back on the tax rolls.

“I would want some security through contract,” Becker said.

Novak added that if they are diligently working on it, to give them some leeway.

“I don’t believe contingencies would be a problem,”Collett said. “Our stated and strong plans are to have this done earlier than that.

MAC also has projects going at the Marion County Park and Lake and other communities around the county, he said.

“We are not only willing to do the work, but anxious,” Collett said.

Restoration of the building is in the best interest of the city and the county, Novak said. The commissioners approved turning the building over to the city with certain conditions specified in a contract.