I have become very interested in the controversy in the County Supervisors over the integrated roadside management program (IRVM). Feb. 6, a motion to terminate the program was passed due to budget concerns. Feb. 13, they voted to rescind the termination of the program. They then passed a motion to suspend any expense other than wages and benefits for IRVM except as required by state law until further notice. The annual budget for IRVM amounted to $200,000 to $250,000 for salaries and chemicals. Salaries and benefits for the manager and assistant amounted to $175,421. The result of their action is we no longer have a program manager who has the training and expertise necessary to make the program successful, effectively saving $98,517. The assistant stayed on and we still buy chemicals for spraying. In dismantling the program we have to go back to indiscriminately spraying everything in the roadside, destroying good plants along with the noxious weeds as was practiced before, leaving nothing to mitigate runoff. The estimated cost of broadly spraying in all 20 townships is $500,000 to $1,000,000 annually according to Supervisor Vermace’s report April 3.
One purpose of the program is to plant native prairie plants in the roadside because of many benefits that they provide. But I want to focus on the benefit of clean water. Native prairie plants can absorb nine inches of rainfall/ hour before runoff occurs. The absorbed water makes its way through the watershed and is decontaminated and cleaned. That sounds so much better than runoff full of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. I think that is worth more than $98,517.
There is a public hearing on the proposed budget Monday April 24, at 11 a.m. in the Courthouse Annex. We should petition our supervisors to budget to reinstate IRVM and fund the program completely.