6.30.20CalhounCutoffConstruction(1).JPG

An aerial view of construction on County Road 32, also known as the "Calhoun Cutoff"

Sheila Czapla, a resident of Millstone Estates which sits off of County Road 32 just east of state Highway 133, said she's excited for the paving of the 3.2-mile stretch of road known as the "Calhoun cutoff."

But as construction work on a box culvert just west of the subdivision is finishing and dirt work on the road is ongoing, Czapla worries about the safety of homeowners and teenagers driving in and out of the area.

"We want the road paved, we just think there is a safer solution," Czapla said.

Calhoun cut road construction

Heavy equipment laying down and grading dirt on shoulder of CR 32 near the road closed barricades west of CR P35.

Czapla and her husband, Paul, spoke about their concerns in a back and forth with county officials during the June 23 Washington County Board of Supervisors.

Czapla said due to ongoing work by M.E. Collins being done on a box culvert west of Millstone Estates, the direction closest to the highway, the only way out of their home is to go east toward Fort Calhoun through road work being complete by Japp Construction.

That dirt work is prepping for Cedar Valley Paving, which willcomplete the paving of the road. Highway Supt. Bill Hansel said the box culvert is expected to allow through traffic in around three weeks.

Czapla said there isn't anyone on the road to indicate when it is safe to drive through the construction area. She said she didn't feel like her and her husband's concern were being heard as it should until she spoke with Supervisor Lisa Kramer, District 2-Kennard and County Attorney Scott Vander Schaaf recently.

"We're not being heard from a subdivision about the safety," she said, adding that she left a message on Hansel's office phone three times.

Hansel said he sent a text to Czapla that she could call him on his cell phone. He also said he texts residents updates as they occur.

In video recorded by Czapla shown during the meeting, Czapla drives slowly on a rough dirt road while construction vehicles work in front of her.

"Nobody is waving and telling me where to go," Czapla said. "There's a large vehicle next to me, and I don't know what to do because there's no signs, there's no one telling us where we're supposed to drive, when we're supposed to drive."

6.30.20CalhounCutoffConstruction(3).JPG

An aerial view of construction on County Road 32, also known as the "Calhoun Cutoff."

Hansel said one of the vehicles seen in front of Czapla in the video is a packer who is smoothing the road out for Czapla's vehicle to get through. Hansel said he sent a group email to Millstone Estate residents June 3 the road work that would be completed.

"Just a heads up, the contractor will be putting dirt in the roads, so please use caution," Hansel said, reading the email. "They will watch for vehicles and make sure you have a safe passage through the work zone. It will be rough, so please drive slow and expect delays."

Czapla's concern, she said, is the current protocol to pass is not as safe as she believes it could be. She said she doesn't know which vehicle to follow because they're unmarked. She said safety is especially a concern when the road is dry and dust fills the air from construction activity.

"You can't see who's coming, you can't see who's going, and you're driving while they're working on the road," she said.

When the road is wet, Czapla said tire divots are created and the road rubs along the bottom of the car, and the road conditions in general could cause damage to vehicles, such as if they slide off the road.

Addressing Hansel and the board, Czapla asked what could be done different for safety.

When it comes to the work being done on the road, which occurs across the entire width of the road rather than one side of the time, Hansel said, it is being done in the only way it can.

"I can't control the contractor. I can tell him to watch the road, make it possible, passable, the best they can," Hansel said.

Supervisor Steve Dethlefs, District 1-Fort Calhoun, said if a flagger and a lead car were used, the wait times for vehicles to get through could be 15 to 30 minutes.

"It seems pretty understanding to me to follow the grader when it goes through," Supervisor Steve Kruger, District 6-Arlington, said "If we need to put a sign on the grader, 'please wait for the grader to go through to smooth the road off,' we can do that. But we're building a road here."

Czapla also expressed concerns with the ability for emergency vehicles to get to Millstone Estates. Hansel said fire and rescue departments are notified of all projects, so they know where road work is being complete.

At the end of the day, Czapla said, she just wants passage through the road to be safer since it is currently the only way out of the subdivision.

"Have them wave through like any other place, like on the highway or any other county road," she said. "Tell us when it's safe to go through, tell us exactly where you want us to drive when we go through."

Hansel said he's also concerned for people's safety.

"That's why I keep sending out text messages … when certain things are going on to use caution, be courteous," he said. "The contractor and ourselves are doing what we can to get the project done. I keep (residents) informed every time something changes via text message."

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