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Spreader fails as ice snarls county roads

County road chief wants equipment upgrades to improve safety

News editor

County road crews had to jump into creative mode last week after their single small spreader for scattering sand on icy roads went on the blink, but even so, road and bridge superintendent Jesse Hamm said he lacks the equipment and materials surrounding counties have to tackle icy conditions.

“Every county that we touch does salt, as does KDOT,” Hamm said. “We’re in the era now that we need to get with the times. That little spreader we’ve got is not enough for this whole big county.”

Hamm informed commissioners Feb. 19 that a pump on the sand spreader had malfunctioned and that a replacement part would have to be ordered.

Even if working, the county has just the one spreader to cover all county roads. The department’s operational plan for ice events is to spread sand at intersections and on curves, the highest risk areas for accidents, and deploy trucks with blades and graders as conditions allow.

As ice returned the middle and latter part of the week, dump trucks were used to put sand out, but Hamm said, “With that spreader breaking down and more ice coming down we had no choice but to let the ice come and let Mother Nature take her course.”

One road that proved hazardous Friday was 120th Rd. east of Goessel. In the first mile east of K-15, a Countryside Feeds tanker, a Fahnenstiel box truck, and a passenger car slid into ditches within about an hour of each other. Sheriff’s deputies called road and bridge to close that mile of road as they waited for wreckers to come extract the vehicles, two for the tanker alone.

40th and 60th Rds. between Peabody and Burns also were dangerously iced over.

Hamm addressed the overall situation several weeks ago with commissioners.

“We got quotes on salt, box spreaders, and bunkers to keep salt in,” Hamm said. “That all got brought up three or four weeks ago. At that time the consensus was that was quite a bit of money to get started on something like this.”

Hamm intended to raise the issue again at today’s commission meeting.

“This stuff may be expensive, but what’s the cost of a life?” Hamm said. “That’s a question we need to think about. When people are coming from other counties to our county and all of a sudden, boom, they go from one extreme to the other, someone’s going to get hurt. We need to make some changes.”

Hamm said an initial step would be to purchase slide-in spreaders that would fit the county’s existing fleet of dump trucks. Salt and storage bunkers could come later.

“I need to get the spreaders purchased somehow,” he said.

Hamm said any move to buy spreaders or materials would come too late to affect this year’s road treatment efforts, but he wants to have something better in place by next year.

Last modified March 1, 2018

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