Road & Culvert Damaged

FILE PHOTO (March 18, 2019) — Numerous roads and culverts were damaged across Holt County due to flooding including this oil county road near Beck's Corner 8 miles north of Atkinson.

The Holt County Board of Supervisors recently amended the 2018-19 county budget to allow for additional capital expenditures in the road fund due to extensive damages throughout the county due to flooding. The increase will be funded by $4 million in bonds. The board voted unanimously on the increase during the May 31 meeting.

"There will be an increase to the taxes to pay the bond, but at this time we don't know what that is," said Chairman Bill Tielke. "The county anticipates the $4 million in bonds will cover roughly half the damage that we have lined up. We are also hoping that FEMA will step in so we don't have to borrow an additional $4 million in bonds. There is a high probability that taxpayers will see an increase in the levy to offset the repair costs," he said.

That amount will not be known until the county begins working on the 2019-20 budget in July and later approving it in September.

Holt County Road Superintendent Gary Connot discussed major damages the county has suffered since the March flooding as well as the progress of some of the projects. 

"Last fall we approved a bridge repair for the bridge southeast of Atkinson a couple of miles. The engineers looked at the load gradings and said we need more rebar," he said.

Connot then discussed the Stuart-Naper bridge located on the Holt-Boyd County line. The project is estimated to cost $6,297,000. 

"It is an 80-20 percent cost share meaning 80 percent will come from federal dollars, 20 percent will come from local dollars. It is a county-line bridge so we would expect that Holt and Boyd counties would split that 20 percent," he said.

Connot projected that the Stuart-Naper bridge would be completed by Spring 2020. 

Speece Lewis Engineers and Mainelli Wagner Associates were selected for repairs of the Redbird bridge and box culvert. Connot anticipates the work will be completed by August. 

After the destruction of the Stuart-Naper county bridge, Atkinson-Butte state bridge and Highway 281 state bridge near the Spencer dam, traffic has increased on several county roads.

"We have been working to fix up the unofficial detour across the Niobrara River through Red Bird. Some of the traffic counts have increased on the county roads. If you go east of the Stone Windmill, we are seeing 474 cars a day in that particular area. When you get over by Danny Pinkerman's we are seeing about 430 cars a day in that neighborhood. If you buzz up to Red Bird, about 667 is our peak count. We should probably see about 67 cars there. By the county shed, we are seeing about 254. We are still seeing significantly increased traffic," Connot said.

"With heavy rains, significant overtop washing of the roads in the Elkhorn River drainage area, some of the same spots that washed out in the spring have washed out again. So some of our repair work has floated away. We still have some contractors on board continuing to make repairs," he added. "When you look through the time sheets it looks like about two days each week out of the last month the guys were able to make progress. The other three days have been rain and mud.

The board approved Connot's request to allow the road department employees to work on Saturdays if needed. 

"We are still advertising for seasonal help," he said.

Bids were opened and read for hot mix asphalt patching. The county accepted the low bid from Ten Points Construction for a total of $742,305. 

Connot also mentioned that Trans-Canada (TC Energy) recently contacted the road department requesting permission to conduct American burying beetle surveys along the route in the right-of-way areas in Holt County. The board approved of the activity.

"I assume they put a bait bucket out there and see how many bugs they trap," Connot said. "It is kind of a time-sensitive deal and they want to start the first of June."

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Editor/Photographer

I grew up 10 miles southwest of Stuart on the Greger family ranch. I graduated from West Holt Public Schools in Atkinson in 1997 and Northeast Community College in Norfolk in journalism in 1999.

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