Osage County Commission
Township roads still raising issues

Wayne White
| Managing Editor

LYNDON—Even though voters defeated a bid to convert to the county unit road system in August, Osage County commissioners are still dealing with township road issues. Monday, commissioners heard a request to consider providing road maintenance for one township, and acted as referees in a dispute over maintenance in another township.

Commissioners met with Scott Farmer, treasurer of Barclay Township, who said he was delegated by his township board to inquire about the county’s interest in, and the possible cost of, maintaining the township’s roads.

“They wanted me to contact you guys to see if you could look into taking over, or us contracting with you guys for maintenance of the roads,” Farmer said. “If you guys are interested in something like that, and if you are, could you shoot us some numbers?”

Farmer said the township had 41 miles of primary roads to be graded, along with mowing and culvert replacement as needed.

“Osage County has never done this,” said Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall, “but there are a lot of counties that do.”

Kuykendall questioned whether the township would want the county to do only grading or the other work also.

Farmer said that grading was the main service the township was interested in, but depending on the cost, other services could be considered under a contract with the county. He noted that much work would be needed in the beginning of such an arrangement, due to neglect over the years.

“A lot of our roads are deteriorating due to long term lack of maintenance,” Farmer said.

Prior to the meeting with Farmer, commissioners had asked the county’s road supervisor, Glen Tyson, to determine possible costs for the services.
Tyson said he had conferred with a Riley County road supervisor, noting that county provides road services to several of its townships. Riley County uses Federal Emergency Management Agency cost estimates for providing the services to the townships, Tyson said.

He said using those figures, the cost for a motor grader would be $60 per hour, with an estimated $15 per hour for an operator.

“Using a track hoe, it would be in the $125 range,” Tyson said, saying that such equipment would be necessary to clear some of the trees from Barclay’s ditches.

Tyson said Riley County does not haul rock for the township roads.

“They let the township contract for their own rock,” he said.

Kuykendall questioned whether Barclay Township had discussed merging services with another township.

“A lot of townships, they’re too small for the expense,” Kuykendall said.
Farmer said that mutual aid among townships had been considered.

“I don’t know if that’s a venture I personally want to dive into,” he said.
He said dividing work equally between townships, sharing of equipment and labor, and differences in the condition of roads could be the source of disputes.

Kuykendall said he believed that such an arrangement with the county could be successful, and that many counties contract with townships for roadwork.

“From the county’s standpoint, it would be better to get a couple townships to do it,” Kuykendall said, noting the county would need to hire more personnel.

“One township doing it probably is not going to be enough,” he said. “There are other townships inquiring, though. If we had two relatively close together, we maybe could afford to do it.”

Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer said contracting with a township “could be experimental for the county.”

“The county can’t afford to lose money on it, though,” he said.

Commissioners agreed to direct Tyson to develop cost estimates for grading, mowing and culvert work, and provide an answer to Farmer in a few weeks.

“We really need to think this over good and look at it good,” Kuykendall said. “There’s more to come. In January, there’s going to be (township) board changes.”

In other township road discussion, commissioners met with Kathy Keesee, of rural Overbrook, whose home on Croco Road is on the boundary line between Elk and Ridgeway townships.

Osage County Commissioner Mike Pruitt explained the commissioners had scheduled the meeting with Keesee and board members from both townships due to Keesee’s dissatisfaction with maintenance of Croco Road near her home.

“She feels like she’s not getting fair treatment or good roads out by her house,” Pruitt said.

He said Keesee pays taxes to Elk Township, but maintenance on the road is done by Ridgeway Township through a “handshake agreement that’s been there 100 years.”

Keesee explained the latest dispute had happened a few weeks before, but said she had been dealing with dissatisfaction of road maintenance by Ridgeway Township for 10 years.

During the discussion, Ridgeway Township Trustee Darrel Kinney explained the latest problem came after the township cleaned dirt out of a ditch and piled it on the road in anticipation of spreading gravel. Afterwards, rain delayed the project, Kinney said.

“It didn’t get done as fast as we thought it would,” Kinney said. “It turned into a few-week deal instead of days.”

Keesee said she became frustrated because work was not being done on the road and after her vehicle got stuck in the mud twice. She said that her calls to Ridgeway Township officials produced no results.

“I don’t want to have to deal with this anymore,” Keesee said. “I really feel like the only reason anything got done because I spent three days on the phone.”

Elk Township Trustee Tom Moore said Keesee had contacted him also, but he believed Ridgeway Township was handling the problem.
“It is our fault,” Kinney said.

After further discussion, all involved parties agreed the road was now passable, with plans to place more gravel on the road.

The discussion then turned to a culvert under Keesee’s driveway.

Kinney explained that Keesee had contacted him last spring about replacing the culvert, which had smashed ends from being run over by vehicles.

Kinney said his response to Keesee’s request was that if she purchased a new culvert, Ridgeway Township would install it at the township’s expense.

Keesee disputed Kinney’s version of the telephone conversation, saying she was told the township would not replace the culvert.

“We don’t have a policy in our township to replace a good tube because the landlord runs over the end of it,” Kinney said.

Following Kinney’s comment, the discussion turned into an argument between Kinney and Keesee, with Keesee accusing Kinney of lying about the issue.

“All I want from you is the truth, if you can’t say the truth, then you need to leave,” Keesee said.

“And this is where my frustration arrives,” she said, saying she pays taxes to Elk Township, but has to request services from Ridgeway Township and Kinney.

“I can’t vote for him, I can’t vote him out, I can’t run against him, I can’t oust him,” Keesee said about Kinney.

Keesee said the solution to the problem, since she pays Elk Township taxes, would be for that township to maintain her road.

“Then I would have someone to call,” she said. “I don’t have road service, that’s not fair to me.”
Pruitt questioned whether the townships could rearrange the cross border agreement “so Elk is doing the road in front of her house?”
“Should she call you first because that’s where she pays taxes?” Pruitt asked Moore.

Moore pointed out that Elk Township has similar agreements with Junction and Fairfax townships, and Douglas County, and residents in those areas contact Elk Township when there are problems.

With discussion continuing about the culvert, Keesee said she did not want Kinney “to do anything on my behalf.”

Kuykendall questioned if Keesee still wanted a new culvert.

“Not if he’s going to do it,” Keesee answered. “If he comes out to do my ditch, I guarantee he will do a dilly of a job.”

Keesee again accused Kinney of “making things up” and said, “this is not going to be a good working relationship from now on. I am steamed.”
As she left the commissioners’ room, Keesee said, “In other words, the Elk Township I pay taxes to, you’re going to side with him.”

After Keesee left the room, Meyer told the township officials, “Try to do the best you can. It’s school bus route, try to keep it open.”

Kuykendall noted that with the cross-border agreements, “there is a level of frustration there, but this is the way it’s been done forever.”

Commissioners also advised the township officials to communicate with Keesee if more work is to be done on the ditches or the culvert.