Three issues Holt County officials deal with each spring and summer are landowners not complying with state statutes addressing watering of roadways, mowing road ditches and trimming trees.
During the Holt County Board of Supervisors meeting July 17 at Holt County Courthouse in O'Neill, the members voted unanimously to install a new flag warning system to address the continued nuisance of roadways being watered by irrigation systems or other machinery.
According to state statute 46-266, no person is permitted to have water escape from their land and flow unto any public road or highway. Anyone violating this statute shall be guilty of a Class 5 misdemeanor. The violator will be fined per day until corrected. If a mechanical malfunction is found, the penalty may be waived.
The county plans to purchase around 1,000 vinyl 4x5 inch red flags on a 36-inch wire from Blackburn Manufacturing in Neligh. "Holt County Road Water Warning" will printed on the flags. According to Tielke, the cost will be around 12 cents per flag and will be absorbed by the Holt County Road Department's budget.
Once on hand, the irrigation officer will place a red flag at the main entrance of the field occupied by the irrigation system or machinery causing the violation. The officer also will write on the flag whether it is the first, second or third violation warning.
The irrigation officer will photograph the violation, note the location and a warning will be sent to the landowner. In the case that the property is being leased or rented, the notification will still be mailed to the landowner.
In the past, the irrigation officer contacted each landowner by phone to address the issue. In 2017, calls were no longer made to landowners by the irrigation officer due to the time it consumed. Instead, the irrigation officer began reporting the violators to the county supervisors.
After a second violation is reported, the landowner's name is listed at the end of the board of supervisors minutes published in both The Holt County Independent and The Atkinson Graphic newspapers after each meeting.
Once a third violation is issued, the landowner's name is passed onto the Holt County Attorney's Office. The landowner will be cited for injuring or obstructing the road and will be fined $100.
"The irrigation officer will never have to come in contact with the landowner, renter or irrigator. All the employee will have to do is pull over, stick a flag in the ground near the entrance to the pivot, take a picture and document the location and landowner," Tielke said. "Instead of the officer spending all evening trying to track down who the owner is, I think for 12 cents a flag that would be a fairly simple thing to do and they could cover more territory."
To report a watering of roadways violation, please call 402-340-9095.
Mowing of Roads & Cutting Trees
According to state statute 39-1811 it is the duty of all landowners to mow all weeds that can be mowed with an ordinary farm mower to the middle of all public access roads and drainage ditches running along their lands at least twice a year — once in July and once in September.
In Holt County, landowners will have $400 per 1/2 mile levied on property taxes if the county has to mow or destroy the weeds. Additional charges also may be applied for mowed clippings discarded on roadways.
If the public access roads and ditches are not mowed accordingly, it not only becomes a safety hazard due to wildlife and other animals, but also causes high costs when it comes time to remove snow in the winter.
According to state statute 39-1813, whenever a landowner neglects to trim hedge fences, trees and undergrowth, it is the duty of the county road department to report findings to the county attorney and county board of supervisors. Notice is then made to the landowner to address the nuisance within 10 days. If the nuisance is not addressed by the landowner, the county sets a hearing before the county board. If the landowner still neglects or fails to comply, costs are paid from the county's general fund. The charges are then levied against landowner’s property taxes.
Unless the landowner takes initiative to remove trees, it will become an additional cost to all taxpayers as well as be levied on the landowner’s property tax.
All state statutes are listed online at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.
For more information or concerns, individuals may contact Supervisors Doug Frahm of Chambers, Don Butterfield of Atkinson, Don Hahlbeck of O’Neill, Darrin Paxton of Stuart, Bill Tielke of Atkinson, Robert Snyder of Ewing or Steven Boshart of O’Neill.