Mike Beneke’s frustrations over the poor conditions of county roads simmered Friday as he dumped 27 tons of gravel to repair a section of road east of Lincolnville he said was hazardous.
They boiled over Monday when he dumped a truckload of dead tree branches on the courthouse lawn.
“That came right out of the middle of the road on Yarrow,” Beneke said.
The Lincolnville farmer faces charges of criminal littering.
Beneke runs a $9 million, 4,000-head cattle operation and farms around 800 acres east of Lincolnville. He once graded roads for the county.
He said he called Sheriff Robert Craft to alert him as to what he was about to do.
“I advised him not to,” Craft said.
Craft called Marion police, but officer Duane McCarty arrived after the limbs were dumped and Beneke had left. McCarty filed a charge of criminal littering with the county attorney, which was pending action Tuesday.
Beneke said he called Craft Monday afternoon to apologize and offer to remove the debris, but county crews already had cleared it.
Declining to sit, he spelled out his road maintenance credentials for county commissioners Tuesday before raising his first concern, a road repair undertaken by a neighbor, Gary Diepenbrock, in January.
Beneke became agitated when Road and Bridge Supervisor Randy Crawford entered the conversation.
“You’ve lied to me a lot,” Beneke said.
“Name one,” Crawford replied.
Commission chair Dan Holub intervened immediately.
“We’re not going to get personal here,” Holub said.
Diepenbrock, who accompanied Beneke to the meeting, stepped in at that point.
“As far as I’m concerned, I have no issue with the way we handled that,” he said. “But we have a lot of road issues. We’ve got roads — we’re going to be using a lot in the next 30 to 45 days. We’ll run 750 trucks to the field and back.
“I’m going to ask your permission to hire a contractor to fix those roads. I call them a path.”
Diepenbrock questioned why commissioners want to put an addition on the courthouse when the roads were in such serious condition.
“I read recently in the paper the commissioners are looking at spending $7 million on the courthouse to handle less people,” he said. “My thinking is perhaps we should be taking care of something out in the country, not the courthouse.”
Commissioner Lori Lalouette asked what roads were problematic, and what the cost per mile was for rock.
“A lot don’t need rock,” Diepenbrock said, noting that many of the dirt roads used for field access haven’t been graded or have been graded poorly.
A calmer Beneke rejoined the conversation, suggesting the county should have money to fix the roads because they didn’t have to do much snow removal in the winter, and because fuel prices are lower.
“We’re not going to buy ‘They ain’t got time, they ain’t got money,’” he said. “We’ve had this conversation for four years.”
“The problem we’re having, Mike, is that your truck traffic will beat the rock into the road,” he said.
As Crawford elaborated, Beneke grew increasingly agitated. When Crawford described what the county had done to the roads and said to Beneke, “I cater to you,” Beneke had heard enough.
“You haven’t done a damn thing, have you?” he yelled. “Your ass needs to go. I guess I’m done; I can see this is going nowhere.”
Beneke then left the meeting.
Diepenbrock renewed his request for assistance after Beneke left.
“I realize how much you guys have to do, but at he same time I may have to help myself,” he said. “I’m guessing we won’t be chopping for 30 days. It would be easier to me to show my concerns than verbally express them.”
Ag Services Inc. president Mike Kleiber was also in attendance, and Diepenbrock asked him to share his views.
“As Randy said, it’s countywide,” Kleiber said. “Things have changed, the roads are in much worse condition. I don’t know if you keep track of how many miles are graded, but it’s less than it was. There are many places so bad people are driving in the ditch.”
Holub pointed out the problems began with three days of rain in December, and Crawford said he’s been trying to catch up ever since.
Lalouette said some problems stretched back farther than that.
“There’s a lot of things Randy’s been trying to fix for three years, trying to fix things that weren’t being done properly, and then you add all these other issues on top of it,” she said.
Commissioners agreed Crawford should make arrangements with Diepenbrock to view his concerns, but stopped short of authorizing Diepenbrock to make repairs himself.
“I don’t want to see you having to spend your money,” Holub said.