MADISON — While Madison County has made efforts in recent years to resurface more asphalt roads, it isn’t keeping up.

Earlier this week, the Madison County Board of Commissioners conducted a pair of public hearings to consider turning 1-mile stretches of two asphalt roads back to gravel.

Following public hearings, commissioners voted to convert to gravel 1 mile of 837th Road between 556th and 557th avenues, when it gradually deteriorates to the point where it needs significant work.

A few years ago, the county approved turning back to gravel the mile east of it, which is next to Stanton County. The mile west of it that leads to Highway 81 also is gravel.

At one time, the road was converted to asphalt for trucks going to the Norfolk dump, which closed more than 20 years ago.

Dick Johnson, Madison County’s road superintendent, said he was in the area about a week ago, and the gravel road that was turned back was in good shape.

The mile of asphalt in question will need a lot of work in the near future, likely an overlay. That likely would cost about $350,000 to $400,000, he said.

Traffic counts show the mile had a total of 477 vehicles in one week, but the exact breakdown of trucks and cars was not immediately available. That translates into fewer than 70 vehicles a day.

Loren Bosler, one of the landowners who lives along the road, said he has concerns, including that years ago landowners gave easements so they could put in the asphalt, but now they are taking it out.

“That don’t sit real well with me,” Bosler said.

Bosler said he has two sons who want to build homes out there at some point. It would be nice for them to have that blacktop, he said.

After speaking to the neighbors, Bosler said everyone asked, “Why?” They think there are a lot of roads in much worse shape, he said.

“Are we being selective here where we’re mulling up the roads?” Bosler asked. “Are we doing this in other places in the county?”

Bosler said if the carbon pipelines are allowed in, they should provide enough revenue that he would be able to have a good mile of blacktop.

Summit Carbon Solutions estimated that its property tax revenue would generate about $1.1 million annually. The county would receive about 20% of that, which then is divided among all the county departments, which includes about 20% for roads.

Mike Clinch, another resident of the area, said he has children who drive the road. By keeping it asphalt, it would help keep it safer and lessen the repairs on his car.

Clinch said with the lower traffic counts, it should not require resurfacing again anytime soon. Clinch said if nothing else, he would favor leaving it as is and not converting it back to gravel until it gets worse.

Another resident of the area who lives a mile north said he travels the road almost every day. It is in better shape than many other county roads, he said.

Ron Schmidt, a commissioner, said he had driven the road twice recently. It was a cold asphalt road, which isn’t as resilient as hot mix.

There also are two roads near Tilden with cold mix that need to be redone. There also are similar roads near Meadow Grove that need to be resurfaced, as well as another near Newman Grove that likely will need to be refinished.

“Each one of these (cold mix) roads I’m talking about look good, and then because of traffic or for whatever reason, they go bad,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he appreciates the testimony, but these roads that are going bad have a history that when they go bad, it is quick.

Eric Stinson, another commissioner, said there have been other areas turned into gravel, and more are being considered, including in the southwest part of the county.

Stinson asked if the landowners were compensated for easements when the asphalt road was built.

Johnson said he didn’t know. He suspects they were needed to get the roads built for the dump being located there.

“I suspect at the time, they said, ‘Hey, we need the easements so we can grade the road correctly and then we can put asphalt down, which under the anticipated traffic, probably made sense.”

Johnson said he doesn’t know if the landowners were compensated or if they donated the easements.

Stinson said given the traffic counts and that the mile before and after it is already gravel, he would go along with turning it back to gravel.

Troy Uhlir, county board chairman, said he sat at a hearing last fall with about 200 people, and there were a lot of concerns about being fiscally responsible.

“There has to be somewhere we can reduce our budget. That’s where this starts to look like this can be something that can fit. Are we being selective? You’re not wrong, Loren. We have to find places where we think it makes sense to do this,” Uhlir said.

There are many roads in the county that need attention now.

“Some of them won’t get fixed, just from the point of traffic counts,” Uhlir said. “Trying to be fiscally responsible, we have to find places that work. And it’s not easy.”

In the end, commissioners voted to turn the road back to gravel when it starts getting worse. The county also will notify the landowners in the area when that occurs.

Also during the meeting, commissioners conducted a public hearing and approved converting about 1 mile of 550th Avenue between 835th and 836th roads back to gravel this summer. The road, which is south of Norfolk and Battle Creek about halfway between the towns, needs work now. Nobody spoke against it during the public hearing.

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