As Gage County continues to dig itself out from recent snow storms, officials are evaluating how a similar situation could be handled more efficiently in the future.
One thing agreed upon by both Gage County Supervisor Dave Anderson, who also serves as chairman of the county’s Road and Bridge Committee, and Gage County Emergency Management Director Mark Meints, is that people should be aware of Gage County’s township system.
While county crews are responsible for clearing county roads, the officials said township officials are
responsible for clearing “township roads.”
There are 24 townships within the county, all of which have working government bodies.
“That’s what amazed me,” Meints said. “Half the people that called me didn’t know what township they lived in. And people don’t know if they live on a township road or a county road.”
Anderson said county officials have been flooded with phone calls during the storms with people needing help.
He said county officials are more than willing to help, but said things could be handled more efficiently if people knew their townships so they can call the proper officials.
Meints also said it would be easier to locate people in an emergency situation if those people could identify the township they’re in.
“We just encourage people who don’t know (what township they live in) - or may just be new people moving into an acreage - to visit with their neighbors to find out for themselves who takes care of their road,” Anderson said.
People can also find out their township by calling the county assessor’s office at 223-1308, the county clerk’s office at 223-1300 or the county weed superintendent at 223-1399.
Anderson also wanted to convey to employers within the city of Beatrice that rural road conditions are much different than in the city, and county workers are moving as fast as they can to get those roads cleared.
There are 430 total miles of roads in Gage County, 275 miles of those roads are gravel and 155 are black top, Anderson said. He said the number of township roads is almost twice as much.
Anderson said people in the country are used to being dug out quickly after a snowstorm, but this hasn’t been an ordinary winter.
Typically, black top roads can be plowed with ordinary plow trucks and the heavier machinery can be used for gravel roads, but this snow has been so heavy that even the black tops required maintainers and loaders.
“That means it’s a day later before (the maintainers) are on the gravel roads,” Anderson said. “People on the gravel roads are not especially happy that crews aren’t getting to them. They don’t realize they we’re working on that first 155 miles first.”
In response to the harsh winter, the county has leased an extra loader, a maintainer, a V-plow attachment for a maintainer, and on Monday authorized the lease of another loader.
Anderson said it could take until spring to get all the township roads opened for two lanes of traffic.
“They’re running out of places to push the snow,” Anderson said.
Meints encourages citizens driving on county roads to continue using extreme caution.
“You can go three quarters of a mile and the road can be nice and flat and snow is totally gone,” Meints said, “but you can pop up over a ridge and it’ll go into one lane.”
Meints said it’s not uncommon to go from zero to 8-foot drifts in the county.
Both officials commended farmers who have been helping out with some of the snow removal in the country.
Meints said problems aren’t going away soon. Even when the snow begins to melt, it will re-freeze over night making black ice conditions on the road.
“There’s just a lot of snow,” Meints said. “This is one of those things you don’t see every year, so people aren’t used to it.”