Wood chips and road damage concern citizens near Hannen Park

Benton County Supervisors in the service center.

By Jim Magdefrau

VINTON – Citizens who live near Hannen Park brought up concerns they have about wood chips being brought into a property near Hannen Park, and the effect the hauling of chips has brought to the road. The chips are coming from derecho damage from Cedar Rapids.

It was also pointed out Linn County is putting material on their land as well. They ran out of room in Linn County.

The concerns were aired at the Benton County Supervisor meeting Tuesday, March 23, at the service center in Vinton.

The road from Hannen to Blairstown and barricades. Photo from Deb Drahos

Deb Drahos, Blairstown, explained that those at the meeting are neighbors of the park, and they were not informed of the project before it happened. She said she and her husband became aware of the project Monday, March 1, when they heard semis go by their home on a gravel road, and then heard a bulldozer running. There were trucks and semis parked on the side of the road. She asked neighbors if they were aware of the project. No one had been contacted by Benton County Conservation about the project, she said, even the closest neighbor.

She said her concern was with semi traffic on a gravel road leading to the site, as well as the blacktop roads. “Neither of these roads were intended for this much semi traffic,” Drahos stressed. She believes the damage and repair needed after the project will be costly. The Hannen Lake Road has experienced significant deterioration in several spots after six days of the project, Drahos related. Barriers now keep drivers away from the most dangerous sections.

She said it is estimated the project will take another 30 days.

Drahos said the project is expected to provide $120,000 for Benton County Conservation. The cost of road replacement could be $1 million, from the site to Blairstown.

She also has concerns about fire safety, with the debris possibly catching fire, and who will monitor it.

Drahos also stated the site was originally going to be at the county care facility wildlife area, east of Vinton. However, that land could only be used for wildlife. It is owned by the county.

Paul Stults, Blairstown, expressed concern over the impact on the road, as well as trash, garbage and debris at the site. He stressed the money received for this will not compare to the road damage it has caused.

Another resident said it bothered her that those in the area were not communicated with about the project, as well as how the trucks are being driven.

Shelby Williams, Benton County Conservation Director, explained the company hauling chips works with the secondary roads department on when and how to drive on the road, as well as the routes. Secondary roads is in charge of the roads, she said.

Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek explained the history of work on the roads. As for the current project, his office recommended using paved roads instead of rock roads. The amount of traffic on the first day was corrected. The contractor has expressed interest in helping with some of the costs, but no negotiations have been held. The contractor is also using fewer trucks than when the project began, plus they are traveling slower.

“I just wish there had been more conversation about this,” Drahos said, adding that she supports the parks. “We just felt like we were left out.” She suggested flyers or a community meeting. Drahos also felt Hannen Park doesn’t get the attention that parks in northern Benton County receive. “That’s our park. Our kids grew up there. They walk there. They bike there.”

Board chairman Tracy Seeman said the conservation department has a new director, and she’s going to try to change that.

Stults asked if the supervisors were OK with this project? Supervisor Richard Primmer explained the conservation commission is its own board. The only control the supervisors have is with the budget. Primmer added the county also has heavy traffic to a landfill near Urbana. Nobody had any say on that. These are public roads they are using, Primmer explained. “It’s hard to stop people from using those roads,” he stressed.

Stults said he didn’t want his taxes to go up to repair a road that should not have been destroyed.

Parizek said his office is monitoring the roads, and determines when the trucks can haul on the roads.

As of Tuesday, it was estimated 147 loads had been dumped and compacted, and another 467 loads are still to come.


We became aware of this project on Monday, March 1st. We were eating lunch and saw 4 semis heading south on 19th Avenue. When we were outside, we could hear the bulldozer running, so we decided to go for a ride and investigate about 5:00 pm on Monday. We stopped at the site, where there were trucks and semis parked on the road, and several people standing around on the road. We asked what was going on, and they told us. I contacted some neighbors to see if they knew about the project. The closest neighbor who lives diagonally across the road to the southwest was not contacted by Conservation prior to the start of the project.

I will speak to my main concerns. There were semis on the gravel roads going north from the property on Monday and Tuesday, March 1-2. The roads had just started to have a dry lane down the middle, both sides of the road were still soft. There are 12 homeowners on the 19th Avenue gravel road that goes north from the site to the Blairstown blacktop. The gravel road from the dump site to 78th Street is very hilly. You cannot see what is coming from the other side of the hill. It would have been nice to have been told about semi traffic. We were not informed.

The Hannen Lake road (Iowa Benton Road) from Scheer’s corner to Blairstown has an additional 12 homes along it. It has a hard surface, but it is narrow, hilly, curvy, and not in the best shape. It is also not easy in all locations to see what is coming from the other direction because of the hills, curves and timber on adjacent land. The homeowners on this road were also not informed about the semi traffic.

Neither of these roads were intended for this much semi traffic. Yes, there are garbage trucks regularly to the landfill, and there are farmers and business owners with heavy equipment and semis that use these 2 roads, but not to this extent. I believe the damage and repair that will be needed after this project is completed will be costly ($200,000 per mile?). The Hannen Lake road has experienced significant deterioration in several spots after 6 days of this project. Barriers have already been placed on the road to keep drivers off the most dangerous sections. I have taken pictures. It was estimated this project would take a month to a month and a half to complete, which would be approximately another 30 days. So, you can multiply the road damage possible by that. This project is estimated to provide up to $120,000 for Benton County Conservation. The cost to Benton County taxpayers for road replacement could be $1 million.

I am also concerned about fire risk. I am aware that this same type of debris caught on fire at the Benton County Landfill in December, and burned for several days. We live close enough to see the smoke, and a neighbor was there and saw the fire. There are people at the landfill every day except Sunday. Who will monitor this location that often? And if it does catch on fire, how far will it go? Much of the surrounding property is grass and timber. And a lot of that timber went down as well in the Derecho and is very dry. A fire could spread very quickly.

We understand this project was originally proposed for 6 acres of the County Care Facility Wildlife Area east of Vinton as well. Nearby property owners met with the County Conservation Board when they became aware, and that site was abandoned. Most of the new articles and public notices on this project were published in the Vinton Newspapers. Those of us who live in southern Benton County do not get the Vinton paper. Personally, we became aware of the project on March 1, when semis rolled by our home on the gravel road known as 19th Avenue. I think that is true of the majority of homeowners affected by this project.

Mike and Deb Drahos

Other business

The board accepted the resignation of Toni Parizek with Benton County Veterans Affairs. She will stay in the office until May 15, in order to help her replacement. The board will also reach out to the veterans commission in looking for a replacement. Parizek said when she was hired, one supervisor also sat in on the process.

A fireworks permit was approved for Chuck Yedlik for May 22, May 29 and 30, April 10 and Oct. 23.

A land use hearing was held for Matt and Tiffany Rolling, for land in Section 25, Benton Township. They plan to change the use of three acres of land for a new home, as well as an out-building in the future. They are purchasing 13 acres. It is family land. This has been pasture land. The corn suitability rating is 50. They also plan a new driveway that will be safer than the existing driveway. A new septic system is planned. They will drill for their own water supply. There are rural residences in the area already, as well as pasture, row crops and timber.

Sheriff Ron Tippett presented a contract with employee Adrieonna Hennings. It is to be reviewed by the county attorney and then acted on at the board’s next meeting.

Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek had a temporary road closure approved for box culvert construction on 75th Street in Florence Township, north of Norway.

Katie Schmit of Group Insurance Partners met with the board regarding health insurance renewal.

Board Chairman Tracy Seeman updated the board on the landfill commission, stating they are lowering the tonnage fee from $50 to $46 per ton as of July 1. Constructional materials will remain at $60 per ton.

Treasurer Melinda Schoettmer met with the board regarding changing her office hours when the courthouse doors are unlocked. No action was taken. The hours changes will be posted on her office’s Facebook page.

Meeting on YouTube – https://youtu.be/mqjqHiyQLaE

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