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County votes to bond road work: $1.9 million to help pay for needed repairs
June 19, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
At their Monday meeting, Scotts Bluff County Commissioners voted to approve the issue of $1.9 million in bonds to pay for some needed roadwork.

For several weeks, commissioners have been struggling with how to finance the mill and overlay of a four mile section of Sugar Factory Road from 27th Street in Scottsbluff to Lake Minatare Road. That project will run in the $1.75 million range. The county also wanted to repave a two-mile section of 21st Avenue as part of the same project for an estimated $750,000.

County Roads Superintendent Bob Bennett had earlier told the board he was hesitant to commit that much funding because paying off the bonds over the next 20 years would take funds away from other needed road projects. He said the county currently received $133,000 a year in state gas tax funds, but there’s no guarantee how much longer those funds will be available.

Commissioner Mike Marker said there are sections of Sugar Factory Road that are dangerous for traffic. It’s in important farm-to-market county road that also provides critical access to Lake Minatare.

After the meeting, Commission Chairman Mark Masterton said repairs to the road are needed, but tight budgets have caused some of the work to be delayed.

“We’re at the point now where we have to address certain paved roads in the county,” he said. “The only other alternative I see is to vacate some of the paved roads and return them to gravel.”

Masterton said he’s also concerned the bonds will be paid off over 20 years, where the road will have 15 years of useful life.

Bennett also updated the board on discussions with Craig Lind, district engineer with the Nebraska Department or Roads, on a proposal to replace the South Mitchell bridge.

Under an agreement from 1986, the state would rehab the bridge and then relinquish ownership to the county. The county would then be responsible for maintaining the structure.

One option was to have the state pay the county to rebuild the bridge. Another would have the state take in the project and retain ownership of the bridge.

“I think the state should keep the bridge,” Marker said. “The bridge is in good shape, even if it takes several years to complete the project.”

Commissioner Steve Stratton said he was concerned the county didn’t have a guaranteed contract if the state gave them the money. The cost could change if it took an extended amount of time to get all the permits, environmental studies and other paperwork in place prior to construction.

“We should request the state provide a replacement bridge, but do it at their timetable and their expense,” Stratton said.

The board voted unanimously to let the state know the county doesn’t want to take ownership of the South Mitchell bridge.

In other action, the county board, with regret, accepted the resignation of County Attorney Doug Warner. In his 26 years of service with office, he was county attorney for a total of eight years.

Warner chose not to seek re-election this year. Scottsbluff attorney Dave Eubanks ran on the Republican ticket. With no Democrat opponent, he will appear unopposed on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Warner will step down on June 30 and will work with Eubanks, who will take over the position on July 15.

“The board has expressed a lot of gratitude for your service,” Commissioner Stratton told Warner. “But you were also elected by the people, so you were their advocate as well. I hope the public will also acknowledge all you’ve done for them.”

Warner has accepted a position as a prosecutor for the Attorney General’s office based in Scottsbluff. This is the second time he’s worked for the AG.
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