One aspect Union County Secondary Roads learned during this month’s snow events may be addressed in the future.
During the Secondary Roads meeting Wednesday with the county board of supervisors about the fiscal year 2025 budget, Roads Superintendent Al Hysell said he was in favor of finding a provider or some kind of method to centralize phone calls to his department during snow clearing events.
Supervisors liked the idea, too. Supervisor Rick Friday said he had received several phone calls from residents inquiring about the timing of the plow scheduled to be on their road. Friday, who said he was cautious about giving others Hysell’s cell phone number, encouraged the callers to contact the department. Friday was not sure if any of those callers actually called secondary roads.
“Who do you call,” Friday asked Hysell and engineer Christian Boehmer.
The snow events during the week of Jan. 8 included multiple emergency calls requiring a first-responder unit. Hysell said he was contacted by officials to determine if a certain road was cleared to make sure the needed emergency crew could make it to the address. Medical issues were the most common. Roads for those calls did get priority. Residents are encouraged not to call 911 about snow removal for their road.
Hysell said he was overwhelmed with phone calls and messages during those times as he knows there are people who have his number. But Hysell said it’s not that easy.
“I remember the plow call, but not the road,” he said while he is on the job.
What made snow removal a challenge was the accompanying wind. Hysell said after several roads were initially cleared, winds would push snow back on the roadways giving residents the impression it was never plowed.
“We would have told them we had already been down their road,” Hysell said.
Friday said many county residents were appreciative of the road crew’s efforts during that time and thanked them with treats.
Supervisors, Boehmer and Hysell discussed researching if a centralized telephone system can be used for people inquiring about their roads after normal business hours. All the calls would go to the same number and the information left would be recorded and then dispersed to the appropriate people. The department’s Facebook page did provide some information for residents.
Supervisors heard a presentation from Boehmer and Hysell about the department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 which begins July 1. No action was taken. The proposed expense budget is at about $6.5 million. This year’s expense is budgeted at $5.2 million. Boehmer said the increase is largely in part to the county potentially taking on more bridge work or replacement with longterm cost savings.
Boehmer said there are a number of bridges that have maintenance concerns or are nearing the end of their usefulness. Boehmer is interested in acquiring retired tanker train cars that are converted to culverts that replace a bridge. The county has used tanker cars in the the past.
Boehmer said is confident his staff has the skill to replace more bridges with tanker cars. Purchasing more heavy equipment would make the county’s work on bridges more efficient. One bridge on Squirrel Avenue in the southeast corner of the county is expected to be replaced in the budget year. Having the county replace its own bridge would save in fees and other costs having the work contracted.
“The equipment would pay for itself,” Friday said.
In a related issue, the county is expecting to improve about 1,600 feet of Osage Street in east Creston beginning at about Wellman Dynamic. Traffic may have to be detoured during that work. A work schedule has not been determined.
Boehmer and Hysell also commented on road signs that have been damaged because of accidents and wrecks or vandalized. Insurance claims have replaced signs damaged because of wrecks. Some municipalities have devices to show if a sign has been moved and show its present location.