County to create new access to Maple Hill gravel pit

Despite objections from some members of the public, the county board has decided to purchase a piece of property adjacent to the southeast side of the county’s gravel pit by the Maple Hill Cemetery.  County Highway Engineer David Betts and Maintenance Supervisor Russell Klegstad requested the purchase in order to create an access to the gravel pit that would be shorter, quieter for nearby residents, and safer because of the hill the pit is on.

The highway department has repaired a breach in a berm at the bottom of the pit and plans to create storm water retention ponds to keep sediment from entering a nearby stream and neighboring properties.

The pit is one of the county’s richest sources of clay, which is used as a binder on gravel roads, and has been used for about 30 years.  Engineer Betts estimated the pit could continue supplying clay at the rate the county has been using it for another 100-250 years.

A nearby resident expressed concern about having found a source of water not too far from the surface of the gravel pit, but Betts said he was fairly certain it was “perched” water trapped above impervious material such as clay but well above the main water table.  The resident said he would consider a lawsuit if his well water, which recently tested very clean, becomes contaminated with sediment.

Charlie Humphrey, who owns a gravel pit, said the county could buy a lot of clay for the amount of money they would be spending to purchase the new access, build a road on it, and maintain the pit.  Betts said the parcel has only been generating $150 a year in property taxes and accessing the pit through the parcel would save a lot of money because the county trucks would no longer have to go up the entire Maple Hill Cemetery Road and around to the top of the pit.  “The land is still an asset we [would] own,” he said. 

In a February 20 memo to the board, Klegstad wrote, “The Maple Hill pit has been invaluable to our operations.  The reality is that our county has no other good source for the same material we routinely use from the Maple Hill pit.”

The board went into closed session to discuss the purchase and after re-opening the meeting, passed a motion to buy the 10-acre property for $45,000 with a vote of 3-1, with Jan Hall absent and Heidi Doo-Kirk voting nay.  “I personally say aye,” she said, “but for the people I say no.”