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Commissioners discuss dams, mowers, and gravel

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The Potter County commissioners spent part of their meeting July 2 discussing the county’s dam issues.
State’s Attorney Craig Smith discussed a dugout on the county fairground property adjacent to the Gettysburg Country Club. Options were explored for the best way to turn the property over to the country club so the liability will no long be the county’s responsibility. The dugout is filled by a well and is used to irrigate the golf course.
Darrin Simon, representing the country club, said that the club would like to do whatever is easiest to get the property transferred.
It was reported to the commission that the city was advised by the state’s Municipal League to do an annexation of the property. Although it was not formally brought in front of the city council, it was indicated that the city was hesitant to do the annexation.
Three options offered by the county were to either put together a long-term lease, sell the property, or fill the hole. It was immediately decided that the third was not a viable option.
It was decided that the country club will pay for the cost of platting the property where the dug-out is located and complete a survey, at which time the county will list the parcel as surplus and declare its appraised value at less than $500. That allows the property to be sold without notice.
In the interim, a 60 day lease agreement will be put in place between the county and country club to make sure the parties are covered for insurance purposes, and a temporary safety fence will be put around the water until a permanent fence can be put in place. The safety fence will be in place prior to the Potter County Fair which starts Aug. 3. The dirt pile by the dugout will be removed by the county.
Bridge at Simon Dam
The Department of Transportation contacted the county to put load limit signs on the bridge at Simon Dam. According to county highway superintendent Steve Smith, the road leading to the bridge is not a section line or a county road, and the bridge should be taken off the county bridge system. The bridge is in a state of disrepair and driving across it is no longer safe. As a result, there was discussion of removing a cattle guard at the edge of the pasture where the county road ends, and putting a gate in its place along with signage designating private property. That also would preclude the county from any liability if people trespass on the ground to fish at the bridge.
Letters will be sent by the state’s attorney to the DOT, Game, Fish and Parks, and the landowners where the dam is located to express the county’s intentions regarding the bridge.
The states attorney did indicate that there could be a problem if the dam was originally built with public funds. He said that there are easements established by time, however those would be to access the dam and would not include the bridge.
Mowers
The highway superintendent informed the commission that the department has one mower working, where they normally would be running three to cut the top portion of the grass on the shoulders of county roads. The grass along the top of the road provides cover for wildlife which creates a safety issue.
He said that a 16-year-old Tiger mower with 5,700 hours on it has undergone a number of repairs over the years. He proposed an option for a new parallel arm mower, which easily hooks up to any available tractor and works well for cutting the five foot top cut of the ditches. The cost for the item is around $20,000, which is within this year’s mower budget.
Replacing the existing Tiger mower would cost closer to $130,000. That type of mower works best with a dedicated tractor because of the extensive hydraulic system and intricate connections.
Smith said that several ditches are harvested for hay by area livestock producers. The larger mowers cut the hay too low in the ditches or throws the grass up on the road, which impedes haying.
He explained to the commission that dragging the big mowers around the county to try to do a top cut is not an effective use of equipment or time with his limited staff and resources. Using two of the smaller mowers in the spring would allow them to do the job in half the amount of time and the equipment would last longer. He also stressed the importance of safety. The parallel arm mower will allow the tractor operator to keep the vehicle safely on the road, rather than drive at a 30 degree angle in the ditch.
Commissioner Bill Arbach, who referenced his experience mowing ditches, was concerned about hitting culverts and other items in the ditch using the parallel arm mower. Smith countered that there are no culverts on the shoulder of the road, and the arm mower allows for adjustments to move over obstacles encountered in the ditch without requiring the tractor to drive at a dangerous angle.
Commissioner Delvin Worth said he was concerned that because of the length of the parallel mower that it would be in frequent need of repair.  Arbach added that weights will be needed on the wheel of the tractor to prevent the mower from rolling the tractor over sideways. While reviewing the product information, Commissioner Bruce Williams commented that the equipment must be designed for balance with the safety of the operator in mind.
Smith again stated that his primary concern was keeping the driver on the road and the mower in the ditch for safety and efficiency. Reports of similar mowers used in other counties stated that they work well.
A less expensive bat-wing mower that would require the tractor to be tipped at the same angle as the mower while driving and cutting was suggested by Arbach, and Worth reiterated his concern over the parallel arm mower and potential damage. The discussion concluded with the purchase of a parallel arm mower and to also have repairs made to the damaged Tiger mower.
Overtime for gravel work
Smith asked if he could use a few members of the highway crew to work overtime hours on Fridays to catch up on gravel work.
Arbach was concerned about the cost, saying that part-time help is paid higher since no benefits are provided, and if they work overtime it ends up costing the county more money.
Worth said he would have a problem if the employees took vacation time during the week then worked the fifth day to get overtime.
Smith explained that overtime is not paid unless 40 hours are worked.
Smith was advised by Arbach that priority needs to be shifted to spot/section repair. Smith said that about 20 miles of road can be graveled during the summer season, and every time the crew is pulled away to do something else, it sets the gravel work back even more.
The commissioners agreed to allow the overtime hours on Fridays for gravel work during the month and will review the productivity at the next meeting.
Safety clothing
The next order of business referred to the Safety/Loss Control Policy Statement which was adopted by the commissioners. It was provided by the SD Municipal League Workers Compensation Fund. Part of the requirements for the insurance is that the highway department employees must wear safety colored clothing at all times when working. T-shirts and a  sweatshirt were ordered for each member of the staff from Ace Hardware in Gettysburg at a total cost of approximately $1,300.
Sheriff Curt Hamburger presented his monthly report, saying that things seem relatively calm and there have been very few problems.
Following his report, a half hour was spent with the commissioners discussing a variety of topics including bystanders hurt when color guards in other communities use the wrong ammunition; a peaceful guitar-carrying transient who passed through town; a one-year-old locked in a car at a river resort and that some vehicles will not lock with keys in the ignition; a wild horse running loose in the western part of the county and the possible use of a drone to locate it; and unusual things that travel across the Forest City Bridge. It was commented that the NSA likely quit listening at that point.
Other discussion during the meeting included:
•Renae Lehman was approved for hire as the new Potter County Librarian, retroactive to the beginning of June.
•a petition was presented by Colby Siebrasse requesting notice be given for a hearing to vacate a portion of an unimproved roadway. The hearing was set for the next commission meeting at 10 a.m.
•a resolution was adopted for a plat approval of 18.25 acres next to the Mid Dakota water tower east of town, where Red River Grain will locate a building.
•a traffic count on County Road 155 North  averaged 145 cars per day over a 32  day period on the north end of the road, and 261 cars per day over a 34 day period on the south end. Smith reported that the south side count averaged over 300 cars a day at one point. Smith also looked into the cost of milling asphalt and will do more research.
•three new gravel trucks are being used by the highway department and are said to be working well. The trucks were purchased at a low 2.73% interest rate.
•the county surplus sale has been rescheduled from the end of June to Friday, July 12.
•the preliminary budget will be reviewed at next month’s meeting.
The minutes from the three and a half hour long meeting are published on page 13 of the News. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 6 beginning at 8 a.m. in the county courthouse.
–Molly McRoberts

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