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Narrow roads and overgrown trees a county problem

A Pratt County resident brought a problem with narrow roads and overgrown trees to the attention of the Pratt County Commission.

Tree canopies and narrow roads are creating issues with farmers traveling to their fields with big equipment.

Farmer Dave Blasi presented the issue to the Pratt County Commissioners at their regular weekly meeting Feb. 13.

Blasi said he was having trouble at several locations with narrow roads and over hanging trees. His farming equipment is wider than the road in some places in the county. Blasi said he farms on both sides of NE 30th Street between U.S. 281 and K-61. He has to pull over to let other vehicles pass and the ditches are rough. He also has width problems on West First Street where the road is 19 feet wide by the former dog pound and his equipment is four feet into trees at the side of the road.

An additional three feet of gravel on both sides of the road would help ease the problem, Blasi said.

He is also catching trees on his equipment in the ditches and overhead where trees have overgrown the roadway. One area with a canopy problem is NW 20th Street at 60th Street, Blasi said.

Blasi said he also can’t drive over low water bridges. and he has to watch out for mailboxes. He has talked with other farmers who are having the same problem.

Part of the problem with the county fixing the roads is that, technically, the county doesn’t own the land under the road. The county just has a right-of-way. The landowners on both sides of the road own the land to the middle of the road. Absent landowners are not around to take care of trees in the ditch or that have overgrown the road and that creates a problem. Removing the trees can be an issue if they have economic value.

Pratt County Counselor Bob Schmisseur said he believes the county only has control on their right of way but he wasn’t sure what the standard clearance was for trees. The county does have the right to maintain roads for farm equipment, oilfield vehicles, busses and so on.

Blasi said he knows fixing the problem is expensive but he can live with it no matter what happens. It if can be fixed, his first choice is NE 30th Street then First Street.

Doug Freund, county road and bridge supervisor, alerted the commissioners to an issue with the kayaks available at the lake. Does the county have to purchase paddles and life jackets to go with the kayak? Rich Sanders, of Sanders Insurance, is going to check and see if the county is covered for kayaks, paddles and life jackets, Freund said.

Schmisseur said the county wants to talk about a rider and the cost to cover everything. He also wants to find out if the county will have to hire someone with special training to check out the equipment. There is also an issue about vest sizes and any age limits that have to be resolved before giving out life jackets and oars, Schmisseur said.

The number of hours a temporary employee can work are a factor as well. Will this be a full time employee, what hours can they work especially concerning health insurance.

“We need to make sure what hoops we have to jump through,” Schmisseur said.

County Clerk Sherry Kruse said she would contact KPERS to see what are the county responsibilities.

A technical issue with landfill operation times not showing up on cell phones will soon be resolved. Recently, a resident arrived at the landfill 15 minutes after the entrance gates were closed, said landfill manger Jason Winkel.

When people check their cell phones for landfill hours, the operation times do not show up on the screen. Pratt County Clerk confirmed the problem and said the problem would be resolved when upgrades are installed but she did not know when the upgrade would happen.

The landfill operators are still at the landfill after the gates are closed. There is work they have to do once the last load is brought in and no one is there, Winkel said.

The landfill burned a brush pile from the recent ice storm. The pile reduced to the point it was almost gone. More brush continues to arrive at the landfill from the county.

Winkel said he was having problems with the brakes on the scraper, they would not release and needed to be repaired.

Darcie VanDerVyver, director of public health, said she wants to change the monthly contract with Cox to a three year contract because it will save $70 per month. The commissioners approved the change.

She has contacted Purple Wave about selling the old vaccination refrigerator and will give an update at a later meeting. The old refrigerator continues to need repairs. The new unit is in place and ready to go into service.

Tim Branscom, county zoning administrator, said a resident in the wind farm area has complained that he is having issues receiving TV signals from his antenna. Since the wind farm went active, it has knocked down his number of channels. The resident contacted NextEra and the problem was checked but no problem with the system could be found.

NextEra was contacted again and the representative offered the resident a one-time payment for the problem, Branscom said.

According to the NextEra agreement, if the operator causes the problem, they have to take timely measures to fix it. The problem has been going on for a month and he is the only one that has complained, Branscom said.

Other information is needed to solve this problem. Is there interference if the wind turbines are not running? The county doesn’t know how objective the complaint is. There needs to be someone qualified to offer an opinion to say there is a problem and the person who says they have a loss has to prove it, Schmisseur said.