No more waiting for a decision

By Jeff Smith

A truck comes down S. Rochford Rd. on May 25. The road is now set to be paved and will be made more accessible for delivery trucks and tradesmen.

The South Rochford Road project was approved to go forward at the last Pennington County Board of Commissioners meeting. It will move forward to the design process. At previous county commissioner meetings there was discussion about possibly repurposing funds for other county road projects.

In order to do that $1.25 million would need to be paid back to the federal government and paperwork would need to be done discussing why the project won’t move forward and much more would need to be done. Everything would have needed to be submitted by July 5 in order to go through with the repurposing of funds.

Tom Wilsey, highway superintendent for Pennington County, said the commission signed the work order to get the design done.

2019 is the earliest expected date for construction to begin. The plans will be finished this year, then they would begin right-of-way negotiations next summer and then start the process to bid out to contractors. 

“After plans are approved then it can be let out (to bid),” Wilsey said.

Wilsey recommended to the board to use a stabilized base and a blotter surface for South Rochford Road.

“I feel like the blotter is the better choice here. With the traffic counts we have now we can live with a blotter for quite awhile,” Wilsey said. “If the traffic counts ever get high enough—up in the 800 to 1,000 range—we might have to look at putting a two inch mat on it.”

The blotter surface would be a rougher surface but would smooth out more with traffic.

Sue Schwaneke, Rochford resident, said she felt relieved after the meeting.

“A vast majority were happy and relieved,” Schwaneke said.

Dan Holsworth, owner of Mountain Meadow Store and Campground, was ecstatic about the decision but said it was an interesting meeting.

When the meeting was finished he asked commissioner George Ferebee to resign.

“I totally made up my mind that he is not representing District I; he’s not doing a good job,” Holsworth said.

Holsworth said Ferebee chooses what he wants the public to hear and brings harm to the commission by not paying attention to the proof but just his own opinions.

“The public is only hearing his side of it,” Holsworth said.

Holsworth said there needs to be someone else on the Board of Commissioners who will represent constituents well, research wisely and has a positive approach to projects.

Holsworth said there was no negativity there on June 20.  Ferebee and commissioner Mark DiSanto were the only negative ones there, Holsworth said.

“The room was full of supporters for the project and it was just a great day,” Holsworth said. 

Holsworth said Ferebee made a statement that they might wait and give the money back to the federal government and use some county funds to see what can be done. He said when that didn’t go anywhere with the other commissioners and when the vote went through on the resurfacing on South Rochford Road there was uproar and clapping. Holsworth called it a joyful moment.

According to Holsworth, there was still some hesitancy from commissioner Ron Buskerud who didn’t think they could do everything for repurposing funds and meet the deadline. He was also not in favor in paying back the federal funds that were already used.

Holsworth understands the commissioners want to be accountable of expenses for the project. The commissioners may not  want to support anything that is overrun but even if it does go over budget Holsworth said there are funds available that the highway department keeps for overrun. That is for all projects and not just this one.

Holsworth said they will never get federal funds for the project again which was verified in previous meetings by state officials.

The environmental impact study for the project published in 2016 said Pennington County has spent an average of $8,201 per mile annually on South Rochford Road, compared to the average annual maintenance cost of $4,115 per mile for other gravel roads within the county over a 10-year period. 

Schwaneke thought that in previous years the road hasn’t been as much of a priority by county road crews because they said a road was coming. She said with a decision now made she and others in the area would be a little more understanding if the county doesn’t maintain the road now that they know the road is coming. Schwaneke said they are not going to see the frost heaves right now but there will still be potholes and washboards.