TP&L

Transportation Partners and Logistics (TP&L) Management Solutions, owner of the trans-loading facility for wind turbine equipment near Cargill, and Holt County officials signed a road haul agreement on June 17 regarding the county roads the company utilizes.

In that agreement, TP&L is providing a letter of credit in the amount of $150,000. The county will be able to utilize the funds in the event TP&L does not repair damages caused by the company per the outlined stipulations.

TP&L President Jim Orr, Vice President Billy Brenton and Sheldon Reynolds, local representative, were present at the Holt County Board of Supervisor's regular meeting at the courthouse in O'Neill. Around 30 individuals also attended the meeting.

"I am going to back up a little on how this agreement came about. I know you are familiar with your other road haul agreements. They don't comply because they were a one-time thing. This is a local business that is here to stay," said Boyd Strope, a local attorney representing TP&L. "What I did take out of that agreement was the heart of what I believed you gentlemen wanted was protection for the roads. So I basically worked around a letter of credit." 

Prior to this agreement, the county had unanimously approved a road permit system in October 2018. The permit system is designed for oversized or overweight vehicles using county roads that have more than eight axles and/or require a flag or pilot car. Under those two requirements, large businesses that fall within those categories have the option to contact the supervisors and/or county road department to set up a road haul agreement.

If a road haul agreement is not required individuals or businesses need to buy a $25 permit from the Holt County Road Department and will be charged an addition $175 road and maintenance fee per load.

When TP&L became "aware" of the county's permitting process it had threatened to take its business elsewhere. 

The county supervisors agreed to temporarily put the permit fees on hold for TP&L until the board of supervisors regular meeting on June 17. If an agreement was not met at that time, the permitting fees would have been reinstated. 

The roadways in the agreement include 871st Road between 494th and 495th avenues and 494th Avenue between 871st and 872nd roads. 

In the event TP&L expands its operation or utilizes other roadways to access its existing operation, the company will notify the county and the roadways will be added to or taken out of the agreement and a new letter of credit amount will be established.

"The engineers said it cost $150,000 to rebuild 1 mile of oil road and $75,000 to rebuild 1 mile of gravel road. I am fine with a revolving deal in there as long as it is enough," said Supervisor Steve Boshart of O'Neill. 

"If TP&L decides to add 3/4 mile it is still subject to that agreement. It still gets inspected and it still gets repaired. Once it reaches over 1 mile then you have to renegotiate the promissory note," said Holt County Attorney Brent Kelly. 

After the agreement was signed, TP&L conceded to survey and inspect the conditions of the current roadways as of June 17 and share the information with the county. After reviewing the information, if the county does not agree with the information in the survey, TP&L will pay for the cost to have an outside engineer complete a survey and inspection.

"A problem I do have is an inspector will be chosen by TP&L and that means they are going to hire the inspector themselves right? This inspection is going to be on the way the road is right now. So what damage has been done to the road, if any, that's not going to be considered," said Supervisor Don Butterfield of Atkinson. 

"Here is where some miscommunication took place. We have been ready to send an engineer out, probably for a couple of years, in coordination with the county getting together with theirs," Strope said. "As soon as this is signed we are going to have an engineer here."

"I don't like the idea of having an inspector of your own inspecting the road now and you are not going to take into consideration the damage you have done to the road already. You are just going to start new," Butterfield added.

"I believe Gary (Connot) has looked at it. It has been my understanding that there has been no damage," Strope added.

Connot serves as the Holt County Highway Superintendent.

According to the road haul agreement, if the roadways are "degraded" in any way during the term of this agreement due to traffic related to the company's operation, TPL shall complete repairs within 90 days upon the county's request. In the case of an immediate hazard, TPL shall take prompt action to make the road safe for public traveling. 

"Once the county identifies or a citizen says something has happened out there and wants the county to take care of it, TP&L has 90 days to repair it. On the 91st day, if it isn't, the county can go out and fix the repair and draw from the line of credit. After that the line of credit will be replenished," said Chairman Bill Tielke of Atkinson. "It is up the county to keep track and let them know and vice versa."

"As an example, the corners. They (TP&L) repaired those. They didn't have a road haul agreement, they just did it and I envision that's how it's going to continue," Strope said. 

TP&L also agreed to provide written notice to the county once it has completed repair work. Once notified of the repairs, the county has 30 days to inspect the repair work and provide written notice to TP&L of any rejections. If the county deems the repairs are acceptable, no rejection notice is needed. 

If the county does not agree the repairs are acceptable, it must provide a rejection notice by certified mail. TP&L shall make the repairs identified in the rejection notice or, within 10 days, TP&L and the county shall select an independent engineering firm to inspect the repair work and determine if the additional repairs requested by the county are reasonable. The cost of the engineering firm for such inspection shall be paid for by TP&L.

According to the agreement, the county shall not draw on the letter of credit until 15 days after the mailing of written notice to TP&L specifying a default by the company. The county, for example, may utilize the line of credit to provide pavement for any of TP&L's obligations or reimbursement for emergency actions by the county. 

In the event TP&L would decide to close its operation in Holt County, the letter of credit would be voided after the county has signed off on the agreement. 

"If they leave and there is something you think should be improved it is coming to come out of that line of credit," Strope said.

Holt County Attorney Kelly added, "You wouldn't want the first time you go look at those roads to be the day TP&L says we are out of here. Being diligent about inspecting the roads and being 'Johnny on the Spot' with the damages, to me, is of paramount importance for a couple of reasons. I think that it's strict in terms of enforcing this agreement, should you choose to enter it, and two, just in terms of evidence or argument about who caused this damage or whether this is water damage, grain truck damage, etc. For example, if you wait until after harvest to go look at the roads, I am guessing you are going to have an argument if some significance expense needs to get paid. Whereas if we look at them before the corn and beanstalks start coming out of the field, it's probably going to be a little more clear cut." 

Prior to taking a vote on the agreement, Chairman Tielke asked if the supervisors had any further comment.

"I guess everyone else got to read this before I did. This is nothing like the one I got to read. I hate to say yes on something that I have only read for 10 minutes or less. I haven't been over it all," Butterfield said.

Holt County Clerk Cathy Pavel stated she had e-mailed a previous copy to all of the supervisors. Supervisors were then to pass questions onto Holt County Attorney Kelly. Updates were also presented to TP&L officials. Pavel said the updated agreement provided by Strope was presented to the supervisors prior to their break for lunch. 

"I am not going to say yes or no until I read it myself so I know what's in it," Butterfield said.

"To make it simple for you Don, the points I went over that was the changes," Strope said. 

According to the supervisors, since its expansion the board has received complaints about the roadways being blocked for several days due to the unloading of wind tower components. In the past, TP&L has expressed it is not at fault since it does not own the rail carts that deliver the components.

"The only problem that I have is I don't want to keep hearing about the train blocking the road and hearing, 'That's not our problem, it's the train.' You are going to have to get along and coordinate better with the (Burlington Northern Railroad) so the roads are not blocked for hours, after hours, after hours," said Supervisor Robert Snyder of Ewing.

"I will do the best I can every night when we leave that the train is not blocking 494th (Avenue.) And as far as the signs go, there has been a little bit of talk about that. We will do our best to make sure the signs are correct and facing the right way. That is all we can do," Reynolds said.

"Are you going to call our dispatch and let them know when it is open or closed? Are you going to be the one responsible for that?" Boshart asked.

"Yes, sir," Reynolds said. 

After comments were taken from the supervisors, a vote was taken. The county road letter of credit agreement passed 5-1. Supervisors Tielke, Snyder, Boshart, Darrin Paxton of Stuart and Doug Frahm of Amelia voted in favor of the agreement. Supervisor Butterfield voted against the agreement. Supervisor Don Halbeck of O'Neill was not present.

No public comment was allowed during the meeting. Public comment was taken during the previous board of supervisors meeting on May 31 at the courthouse. Sheriff Ben Matchett and Chief Deputy Ed Nordby were available to take comments in the hallway if needed. 

Prior to this agreement, the county had unanimously approved a road permit system in October 2018. The permit system is designed for oversized or overweight vehicles using county roads that have more than eight axles and/or require a flag or pilot car. Under those two requirements large businesses that fall within those categories have the option to contact the supervisors and/or county road department to set up a road haul agreement.

If a road haul agreement is not required individuals or businesses need to buy a $25 permit from the Holt County Road Department and will be charged an addition $175 road and maintenance fee per load.

The county supervisors agreed to temporarily put the permit fees on hold for TP&L until the board of supervisors regular meeting on June 17. If an agreement was not met at that time, the permitting fees would have be reinstated. 

When TP&L became "aware" of the county's permitting process it had threatened to take its business elsewhere. 

For more information about the county's road haul permits, contact the Holt County Road Department at 402-336-3888.

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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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