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Agreement reached on road closure
April 22, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Scotts Bluff County Commissioners and Western Sugar representatives have reached an agreement of sorts for a limited closure of a stretch of East Overland in front of the Scottsbluff sugar factory.

The county has been resurfacing East Overland immediately west of 21st Avenue and that work is almost completed. Luke Rust, manager of the Scottsbluff factory, asked the county board for authority to close the street from 21st Avenue to Highway 26 when crews are occasionally using a large crane to move construction equipment into place.

“For safety reasons, we’d like to close the street on and off when we’re working,” Rust told the board. “We’d leave the street open in the evenings, but the work would be done from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday if possible.”

Rust said they have another six more weeks of work to do and plan to have the new factory expansion completed by May 30.

County Roads Superintendent Bob Bennett said safety is essential, but having the street closed for an extended period might not sit well with motorists.

“The last time we tried to close that section, we ran into a hornet’s nest of opposition from East Overland merchants,” said County Board Chair Mark Masterton. “It might become an issue because the merchants haven’t been notified of this.”

Commissioner Ken Meyer said he doesn’t like the idea of closing the street, even temporarily. However, motorist safety was his main concern, so the closure might be necessary.

Emergency Communications Director Ray Richards said closing the street would be a challenge for fire medical rescue responders who have to remember to go around the closed road.

“It can be done, but our office would have to set up other disciplines to work around the closure for the next six to eight weeks for 11 fire departments and law enforcement agencies that dispatch through us,” he said.

Bennett said another possible alternative would be to post flagmen at each end of the street to detour traffic while the crane is in operation.

Chairman Masterton said he would support flagmen because of the hardship a closure would have on East Overland merchants.

Kendall Busch, representing the Sugar Beet Growers Association, said it’s important to get the construction completed because it could impact the fall sugar campaign. He added that posting flagmen might be the best solution.

Commissioners split 3-2 on whether to close the street or not, but the majority voted in favor of posting flagmen whenever construction is in progress. They would revisit the compromise if any problems came up.
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