By Kate Klimesh,
Roads and ditches were a hot topic of the Feb. 6 Winneshiek County Supervisor’s meeting. Following a bid for bridge replacement, focus turned to the Roadside Management Program.
Roadside Management Program
Following an operations report by Roadside Manager Corey Meyer, including the Roadside Management Advisory Board meeting minutes detailing the Roadside Management Plan, Supervisor Dan Langreck stated that the Roadside Management Program was “starving the county roads budget of funding and equipment they need for the roads.” He stated that the roadside management budget was “costing us $250,000 a year in equipment and funding. I’m not saying it’s a good or bad job, but that $250,000 a year could have gone into the roads and equipment needs.”
Supervisor Mark Vick added, “We have to take care of the roads. We’re so far back and upside down it would take $50 million to catch up. If we can’t keep the roads good, it won’t matter what’s in the ditches.” Vick then moved to eliminate the Roadside Management Program until the roads funding is back on its feet again. Motion was seconded, and discussion was opened.
Supervisor Shirley Vermace requested a public hearing on the issue, as over a dozen people were in attendance who wished to have input on the matter but were not recognized formally as they were not on the agenda. The request was denied.
Langreck said, “How high do you want to raise taxes? We’re going to have to raise them anyway, how high do you want to go?” Langreck then called for a vote on the motion. Langreck, Vick and Steve Kelsay voted to eliminate the Roadside Management Program effective immediately as of Feb. 6, 2023. Vermace and Mark Faldet voted in opposition of the motion.
Following the vote, the public in attendance – 16 of which stood to represent their support of the Roadside Management Program – were vocal in their disagreement with the vote. “In the past, when there’s been action proposed that wasn’t on the agenda, we would table it so all supervisors could get up to speed before taking action. I think we need time to look at this issue,” stated Vermace.
County Attorney Andy Vander Maaten reported that the public could take up a petition to request a public hearing and present for supervisor consideration (would need three supervisor votes to approve the request) at a future meeting, but there was no legal requirement to hold a public hearing. There is a required public hearing prior to the final approval of the county budget, and the public will be able to voice their opinion at that time as well.
Meyer, in his fifth year as Roadside Manager, noted that for 20 years the Roadside Management Program received grants for $10,000-$12,000 in seeds toward ecological plantings in the ditches, tied to diversity of the ecological landscape in the county’s roadsides, which the county will no longer be eligible for without the Roadside Management Program.
Full story in the February 9 Public Opinion Newspaper.