Giving up on rural road improvement

That’s it. I’m done with waiting for our rural roads in Marion to get better without some form of radical change at the county government level. Roads are an important part of the infrastructure, the lifeblood, as it were, which determines the level of success within these borders. This “patient” is seriously ill and on life support, and nothing is being done to restore its health.

As it is, rumor has it that if anyone wants to provide clear examples of what one should not do, you only have to mention Marion County, and heads nod in agreement. I resent our county becoming the laughingstock and an embarrassment to those who call this home. We are certainly a cautionary tale, but it is time for a change, for the better.

More than a year ago, an ad hoc group of interested residents, farmers and business owners met to provide insight into the declining road and bridge conditions, while encouraging our county folks to develop short-term and longe range plans to bring roads up to adequate standards required for today’s agriculture and business needs. At the time, it seemed as though we were making some headways and were hopeful this would become a watershed moment for the better. With the advantage of 20-20 hindsight, that was too optimistic an assessment.

Since then, very little improvement is observable on our road conditions, not to mention, no action has been made with a strategic plan outlining the approach which the taxpayer can decipher, understand and support. Unfortunately, those earlier meetings have been an exercise in futility, only adding to our increasing frustration and anger about the problem. As taxpayers, our hard earned dollars are draining down a rat hole.

Former baseball great, Yogi Bera, was right. You can learn a lot just by watching. I not only farm in Marion county, but also in Dickinson county and have land near the border of McPherson county. The rumors regarding our poor roads are well founded. They are based on sound observations.

Last week, I embarked on a nearly 500 mile excursion through the state, beginning at home and crisscrossing through central and western Kansas, before exiting through the north central region. Road conditions are easily determined with simple observations. Rarely did I observe road conditions which were worse than ours.

The time has come for rural landowners and residents to expect more from those hard earned dollars and how they are used. The time has come for action to develop a strategic plan to address the sad state of our roads. The time has come to expect greater accountability of the folks who direct the day-to-day work and to communicate that strategic plan to employees for effective action. The time has come to deliberate and take action regarding the organizational structure of our county government to improve decision-making within the organization, and to improve communications with the people it serves. They deserve better.