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Engineer’s Office Gearing Up For Next Road Project

By Staff | Feb 24, 2009

With the construction season just a few weeks away, the staff of the Palo Alto County Engineer’s Office is preparing to start the process of obtaining right-of-way easements for the next road reconstruction project in the county. Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz updated the county Board of Supervisors on rates of compensation for right-of-way acquisition and related procedures.

The procedures will be followed for the upcoming reconstruction of county road B53, from Ayrshire to Highway Four, which is scheduled for completion in 2010.

“It’s time for us to review our policies for the right-of-way acquisition on the Ayrshire project,” Fantz said. “We’re not at the point to actually start obtaining right-of-way, but we have to have these policies in place before we can do so.”

According to Fantz, right-of-way for most road projects such as the Ayrshire project is obtained through easements with property owners, rather than by obtaining deeds, as easements are quicker and less complicated.

“When we determine value for an easement, we develop compensation estimate based on the CSR ratings and the 2008 land values,” Fantz explained. “But, if the land owner requests it, we can use an actual appraisal value, and that is what is paid. Usually, the compensation estimate is a little better than the appraised value.”

For the Ayrshire reconstruction project, the current right-of-way ranges from 41 to 51 feet through the corridor, but the project calls for a 58-foot right-of-way width through the length of the project.

“We will be sending out letters and a copy of our policy to affected landowners,” Fantz told the board. “And, we’re about a month away from holding a meeting with people in the area to explain the project, the design, what we’ll need for right-of-way and how we will obtain that right-of-way, much like we did for the Graettinger and the Depew projects.”

Fantz also explained that borrow areas for the project will see an increase in compensation levels. “We have paid $700 an acre in the past for borrows, and then up to $1,200 an acre, and we’re going to stay at that $1,200 figure. I just feel its better to set the policy so that everyone gets treated the same way.”

“I’d agree,” Supervisor Ron Graettinger said. “I think this is the most fair way to do this, and the people see it and understand that.”

For fences in the project right-of-way, the county will pay $2 per rod to a landowner, who may salvage the fencing materials, or the county will remove the fence. Otherwise, the county pays for the replacement cost of fencing, based on the type of fence that is reconstructed. Light electric fence is reimbursed at $1.50 per rod, while one to three-wire fence is reimbursed at $9 per rod and woven wire fence is reimbursed at $12 per rod. Earlier projects reimbursed wire fence at $7 per rod and woven wire at $10 per rod.

“We raised the fence replacement a bit for this project because there are more fences being used along the right-of-way,” Fantz said. “We really haven’t had many issues with fences, but there are multiple fences that are used on this project.”

With little discussion, the board moved to approve the revised right-of-way policy for the Ayrshire reconstruction project on a unanimous vote.

In other business, the supervisors agreed to support a plan by Palo Alto County Emergency Management Director Mark Hunefeld to work of the development of a multi-agency Hazardous Mitigation Plan that would bring all nine communities and the county under one master plan.

“I’d suggest we got this route,” Hunefeld told the board, “Counties who have done this have gotten good involvement of their people. It’s just good public policy and it makes good economic sense.”