The Emmet County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday had planned on looking at a modified request that the county foot most of the cost of upgrading a Level B road to a hog confinement - at taxpayer expense.
With an initial estimate by county engineer Roger Patocka of $91,000 to upgrade a portion of 500th Avenue south of Maple Hill so it could handle 80,000-pound loads, the board had sent confinement site owner Mike Daggett back to the drawing board to see if he could move the site closer to an existing hard-surfaced road, reducing the cost.
While not present Tuesday, Daggett had presented figures for laying and packing 1,560 tons of gravel - something that didn't meet the approval of Patocka or the supervisors.
Tuesday, that led the board to ask Patocka to look into the procedure and timetable for closing the road.
In opening Tuesday's discussion of the issue, board chair Alan Madden said the confinement matrix application had been fulfilled so a building permit could be issued.
"A permit can be issued for this site," said Madden.
Patocka said his proposal was more extensive - cleaning ditches, laying down fabric and redoing tiles.
Supervisor Jon Martyr echoed Patocka's concerns.
"It's going to be a maintenance nightmare and we're going to be the ones that will inherit it," Martyr said of Daggett's proposed upgrade.
And Madden said doing just part of the road to the confinement wouldn't be a great idea either.
That was when supervisor Bev Juhl asked the next key question - what if the board decided to abandon the road.
"I would rather abandon it than fix the road," Madden said.
Patocka said too that the county had to make sure that it followed regulations for disposing of excess property. "There is quite a bit more than I initially thought," he said of the procedure.
Patocka said Washington County had hired someone to help walk it through the process of a road abandonment.
"If the road is there, it's the county's responsibility to fix the road," said supervisor Ron Smith. "If someone really pushed it, we would have to fix it up."
"I don't think we're compelled to make that road to withstand 80,000-pound loads," clarified Madden.
"You can have a road, but the level of surface can vary," said Patocka. When Juhl asked about being required to plow to allow access to livestock, Patocka said the county had done that in the past. But Martyr said given the state of county budgets across the state, it was hard to believe that the county would have to fix the road.
Dave Berven, who lives at the "T" of 500th Avenue and 200th Street, said none of his neighbors knew about the requested road upgrade until it was discussed in the newspaper.
"It seems like the tendency was just to run it through," said Berven, adding that he had lived on the road all his life and that heavy rains often made it impassable. He said too that spending $100,000 on a road used by a Virginia-based company would be a misuse of taxpayer money.
"It will benefit one party," Berven said. "I would suggest that you spend the money for the benefit for many rather than the benefit of one."
Madden said he had received 10 calls about the proposed upgrade - all against.
"They were not in favor of spending the money on the road," Madden said.
Martyr said he had received about 10 calls as well - all hog producers or grain farmers - and against the county spending money on the road.
"I'm hearing the board's going to abandon two miles," said supervisor Ron Smith.
"We were talking about that for years, that that might be split up someday," said Todd Glasnapp who lives on the south side where the road is dirt.
"There's nothing that automatically triggers it that we abandon the road," said Martyr.
"I'm not willing to spend $36,000," said Madden. "It's two different things, but they're tied together."
Berven noted that he also favored abandonment.
When supervisor Tim Schumacher said Daggett may have the option to fix the road, Patocka said if that happened, it would have to meet legal standards. He said a Level C road could be established and only landowners would have key to a padlock. As for abandoning the road, said Patocka, "I agree. That needs to be researched."
Madden asked Patocka to come to the board at next week's meeting with a process and agenda for abandoning the road. "We're going to condemn it first and then he (Daggett) can take care of that other half mile of road," Madden said.
"I think you're going to have a real problem if you just go a half a mile," cautioned Terry Christensen.