Archive for Thursday, August 21, 2003

Road dust irks rural residents

Neighbors seek to pay for paving roads themselves

August 21, 2003


Evidence of Eudora's southern growth is becoming increasingly visible for Rodney Croucher.

Even if he can't see anything.

"We're all fed up with the dust out here, and it won't get any better," said Croucher, who lives near the Hesper Heights residential subdivision southeast of Eudora. "You can't go out in your yards. You can't do anything, really, except just sit inside."

That's why Croucher and nearly three dozen of his neighbors are offering to pay for the paving of 2.4 miles of gravel roads near their homes. They've already collected $51,000, plus commitments from each property owner to pump another $150 a year into a maintenance fund.

Wednesday night, Douglas County commissioners said they would be more than willing to accept the offer, but they just want to make sure that the "chip and seal" road surfaces are installed properly, the first time.

And while residents estimate the project to cost about $53,000, county officials cautioned it could cost as much as $161,000 to add enough rock to make the roads last longer than a couple of tough winters.

"This is citizenship at its best," said Bob Johnson, commission chairman. "I have great respect for neighbors who come in and want to spend their own money for better roads. I want to do it, and I want to help you do it, but let's do it so we can all live with it and be happy in the future."

Portions of three roads would be resurfaced:

    Residents in the Hesper Heights subdivision, at North 1100 and East
2300 roads south of Eudora, are fed up with the amount of dust from
gravel roads in front of their homes. They've asked Douglas County
commissioners to allow them to have the roads paved.

    Residents in the Hesper Heights subdivision, at North 1100 and East 2300 roads south of Eudora, are fed up with the amount of dust from gravel roads in front of their homes. They've asked Douglas County commissioners to allow them to have the roads paved.

  • North 1137 Road, which serves Hesper Heights, a residential subdivision.
  • East 2300 Road, from North 1137 to North 1100 roads.
  • North 1100 Road, from County Road 1061 to the east side of Hesper Heights Church, about 1.7 miles away.

Commissioners said the county would cover the estimated $10,000 in legal costs it would take to create a "benefit district" that would set the project in motion. But they won't sign off on anything until neighbors meet with Keith Browning, county engineer and director of Public Works, and other officials to review financing and design issues.

Among the biggest: If the residents are willing to pay $53,000, and the county says it will take $161,000, who will make up the difference?

Commissioner Charles Jones suggested tapping into the tax revenues paid by the residents to Eudora Township, which uses such money to take care of gravel roads in the area. If the township isn't caring for the newly paved roads anymore, Jones said, that money should go to offset the county's newly expanded maintenance responsibilities.

Coming up with an answer won't be easy, he said, but members of the Hesper Heights Improvement Assn. already have done the hard part.

"You've really shown great leadership in your little community, and I admire that tremendously," Jones told more than a dozen members who attended Wednesday's meeting. "I think it's in the county's best interest to do this."

Craig Weinaug, county administrator, promised to "aggressively" pursue a solution that would get the project on the regulatory fast track, so that the chip-and-seal surface could be in place by early spring.

That means another fall and winter of suffering through dusty roads for Croucher and his fellow association members, who have spent months lining up estimates and securing financial commitments for the work.

But after watching Johnson County officials come up with a standardized plan for cutting dust problems on busy gravel roads, Croucher figures the Hesper Heights example could prove to be a worthy building block for his own growing backyard.

"It's a good idea for the county to step in and make a template for the rest of the county," he told commissioners. "We're not a Johnson County yet, but we're kind of a small Johnson County, just starting out. They had to start somewhere, too."

The summer's stifling heat and dearth of moisture is snuffing out the freedom to light fires in rural areas.Wednesday night, Douglas County commissioners imposed a burn ban for unincorporated areas. The prohibition has no expiration date, and will continue until lifted by Bob Johnson, commission chairman."And we're expecting more hot, dry weather," said Paula Phillips, the county's director of emergency management.The ban prohibits:¢ Building, maintaining, attending or using any open fire or campfire, except in permanent stoves or fireplaces, or in barbecue grills in developed recreational sites or residential home sites.¢ Burning of fence rows, fields, ravines, trash or debris.¢ Carelessly using and disposing of smoking materials, including cigarettes, cigars and pipes.Violations are punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

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