Property owners and neighbors south and west of Byers gathered at a Pratt County Commission public hearing Monday to comment about the possible closing of NW 60th Street and the discussion got a bit intense at times. NW 60th Street is a minimum maintenance road.
Pratt County commissioners will pay an on-site visit to a road in NW Pratt County to get a better understanding its condition before making a decision on whether or not to close NW 60th Street between NW 70th Avenue and NW 80th Avenue. The road is 3.5 miles south of Byers.
More than 14 property owners and others attended a public hearing on closing the road. After much debate on both sides of the issue, the county commissioners agreed they needed to visit the site and surrounding area in person before making a decision on the road closing. They will take up the issue again at the April 8 commission meeting.
The public hearing on closing the road was held in conjunction with the regular county commission meeting on March 18. Attending the public hearing were Anna Strobel, Marion Strobel, John Strobel, Eric Strobel, Gordon Stull, Kent Deutsch, Kevin Melvin, Dick Hemphill, Blake Himmelwright, Megan Sherer, Matthew Wooster, Jeff Berry, Joe Berry and Tom Schnittker.
Bob Schmisseur, county counselor, advised the audience that a petition had been filed to officially close the road and that certified mail had been sent to all land owners about the petition and notifying them of the public hearing.
Jeff Berry and Joe Berry made the initial request to close the road. The Berrys said the road is seldom used and they claim the road is in such bad condition that it is unsafe for two trucks to pass. The sides of the road are higher than the middle of the road which causes trucks to lean towards each other. This almost caused a collision last fall when the side tops of two grain-hauling semi trucks came within about foot of each other, Joe Berry said.
Berry said he recalled a sign indicating the road had been previously closed but the sign had been knocked down and has never been replaced. Berry said he and Jeff had graded that road dozens of times over the years.
Other landowners were against closing the road because they use it during harvest and it is the most direct way for them to get from their fields to the grain elevator. Besides the Berry property, there is an active oil well owned by members of the Strobel family and an irrigated field owned by Southwestern College. Tom Schnittker, representing the college, said they needed a half mile of access on the road to reach their field. John Strobel said they needed the road to stay open for access to their well.
Blake Himmelwright, representing Lemon McCoy and Jennings, said they had used the road since 1982 and agreed it was not in good shape. But an alternate road on 80th Avenue is not a good road either. They would like the county to maintain 60th Street better.
Megan Sherer, representing Morning Star Farms which also uses the road, agreed that the road was not wide enough for traffic.
Kevin Melvin said during corn harvest they run a lot of trucks and it would be easier and more convenient if the county could keep the road open.
“It just makes sense to have the road,” Melvin said.
The Berrys own land on both sides of the road and they thought the road was already closed. But research revealed no evidence the county ever closed the road. Schmisseur said there were records when the road opened but no records the road was ever closed. Decades ago the courthouse suffered a fire decades ago and some records were lost. If the road was closed, the record may have been lost in the fire.
Attorney Gordon Stull said there was nothing in the road records to indicate the road had been officially closed. Stull said the road is poorly maintained and hardly used and thats why the Berrys want the road closed.
Doug Freund, county road and bridge supervisor, said he agreed that the road was not good. His information indicated the road was open. He said it was a minimum maintenance road and that the county probably ran a grader over the road maybe twice a year. The Berrys disagreed that the road was touched even that much.
As for closing just part of the road, Freund said he didn’t know of any road closing that was just a part of a mile. He said if the road is closed, he would put up signs but he cautioned that inevitably, someone will ignore signs and go down the road.