Commissioners look at cowboy trail and revisit horse issue

By Jordan Huether

The County Commissioners met on Monday, June 11 for their regularly scheduled meeting. Kris Ferguson was present to discuss the Cowboy Trail. She told the commissioners that a year ago, she was being flown to Scottsbluff for emergency medical care after being struck by a vehicle while riding her bicycle. This incident inspired her to pursue why game and parks never finished what they started with the cowboy trail. What she found was that game and parks has made a decision not to build any more trails.

A contact at game and parks told Ferguson that he felt confident that if they could find a way to fund the maintenance of the trail, that game and parks would apply for the federal money available to build the trail. Following that conversation, she formed the Cowboy Trail West.

The group has been doing fundraising for the project, but was then told that the game and parks could not work with them directly, because they are not a municipality or political entity. Their reasoning for this being that once they receive the funding, the game and parks would be fully responsible for the maintenance of the trail. Because they don’t want to be the ones responsible, they are asking that the county, NRD, or possibly the cities of Gordon, Rushville and Hay Springs take responsibility for it.

Ferguson stated that she then inquired to the cost of maintaining the trail, and the game and parks gave her an estimate of between $700 and $1,000 per year, per mile. She stated that she felt those figures seemed high, so she did some more research and found that those figures were industry standard for the entire nation, regardless of where the trail is located. If the costs are less than that average, the extra funds are put into a pot and put it towards projects statewide. Ferguson stated that she felt the maintenance costs would be closer to $250 per mile, per year. She said she felt the trail would be a great asset to the communities of Gordon, Rushville and Hay Springs, and would even bring people into our towns from neighboring communities, but her primary goal is keeping our people safe and off the highway.

Ferguson said, “What we are basically asking of you today is two things. First, we need monetary support once the trail is established. We plan to ask the same thing of the NRD on Thursday, and if we can get the same amount from the NRD, it would amount to $1 per person in Gordon, Rushville and Hay Springs, or about $3,000 per year. If they won’t work with us, we would possibly have to ask the commissioners for $2 per person, or $6,000 per year.”

“Our organization has looked into grants, and fundraisers. We have no intention of going away, but the game and parks wont take our word for it, they’ll only take your word.”

Dan Kling voiced concern that if they guaranteed the state $7,500, the state would take what wasn’t spent on the trail for other statewide projects. The commissioners agreed that they would be more comfortable if the state allowed them to be wholly responsible for the maintenance of the trail, with no funds leaving the county.

Jack Andersen suggested that something like a special improvement district be formed, so that people in other parts of the county aren’t taxed for the trail, while not directly benefiting from it. The commissioners agreed that it was something that needed to be looked into.

Ferguson stated that between grants and fundraisers, she didn’t expect the county to have to pay for the maintenance in the near future, but that it would be a possibility in years to come. Dan Kling stated that if the trail is developed and maintained correctly, that several years down the road, it could help persuade people to move into the community. Kling stressed that they would need the assurance that the control of the project would remain local.

James Krotz suggested that the group obtain legal representation to help with the project. He asked Ferguson to look into what’s required to form an inter-local agreement, and said that the commissioners would look into ways for a special improvement district to be formed. “We support what you’re trying to do, and let’s work from both ends to get something figured out,” said Krotz.

The next issue brought before the commissioners was care of the Daringer horses on the property at the intersection of 655th Road and 190th Lane, Gordon. A concerned citizen commented that the horses are still escaping, and are getting onto the road. She stated that she received a letter from the attorney general’s office, stating that they are reviewing the issues. She also was concerned as to why nothing was being done about it locally yet.

The commissioners responded that they don’t have jurisdiction over the courts or the sheriff’s department, but that the sheriff has been filing the reports and getting them to the county attorney. James Krotz stated that, “If something is going to happen here, it’s going to be because the county attorney decides they are going to do something.”

The commissioners agreed that they do want something to be done, and that they are willing to finance “another run at this thing,” but the person responsible to immediately take action on the issue is the county attorney. Jack Andersen stated that, “I would urge you to visit with him, but one of the things I hope we don’t do, is get in his way and cause him to not be able to do his job.”

Dan Kling mentioned that he was contacted by the Humane Society of the United States, and that they were giving them their full moral support, and that they would look into what they could provide financially. The thing that the HSUS asked is that they set up some time-lines. The commissioners agreed that some time-lines needed to be established.

Kling also stated that, “We as a board, are not afraid of anyone you want to bring in on this. We have nothing to hide. If it takes PETA, or whoever it would take to clean up the property, then by all means, bring them in.”

The commissioners closed the issue by stating that they will sit down with the county attorney and establish some time-lines.

Rick Bailey of Viaero Wireless was present to request subdivision approval for a four and a half acre parcel of land south of Gordon for a new cell tower. The tower will be approximately fourteen miles south of Gordon, adjacent to the highway on the east side. The commissioners approved the request. Bailey commented that Viaero is currently upgrading to 4-G service, starting in Colorado and working their way this direction. An official press release on the subject will be published when made available to the Journal Star.

Road Superintendent Tom Kuester presented to the Board two requests from Great Plains Communications to occupy a County right of way for the purpose of burying communication cables. One project will run east out of Hay Springs on 3rd street for a half mile, the other will run east on 610 Road from Hwy 27 for 1 mile then north on 190 Lane for 1 mile. The Commissioners approved both applications.

Kuester presented an application for a residential approach to the county right of way on 340 Lane for Jason and Kirsten Scott. The Commissioners approved the request.

The Commissioners approved the subdivision of 3.44 acres (an existing farmstead) in Township 30 North, Range 46 West for Mark Tiensvold.

The Commissioners approved the subdivision of 3.37 acres on the west side of Hwy 87 12.4 miles south of Hay Springs. The subdivided land is to be sold by Marvin Johnson to the Stateline Bean Producers Coop.

County Assessor Trudy Winter appeared before the Board to discuss how to meet certain cost overruns in her office budget. The matter was resolved by means of internal transfers without the need to increase the Assessor’s budget.

The Board of Commissioners reviewed and approved an agreement with FALCO for audit services for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. FALCO will audit the Counties accounts for an amount not to exceed $14,900 plus travel and expenses.

The Commissioners approved and signed a sub-grant agreement on child support presented by Clerk of the District Court Eloise Kampbell.

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