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Supervisors Revisit Spraying Strategy

By Staff | Sep 14, 2010

Palo Alto County Supervisors discussed how they want to handle the ongoing spraying of drainage ditches during a session Tuesday, Sept. 7. Visiting with Don Reffer of B&W Controls of Algona, the supervisors, County Engineer Joel Fantz and Sanitarian Joe Neary, discussed strategy for spraying in the future.

“Our firm sprayed all of the drainage ditches that were sprayable in the county in 1992-93-94,” Reffer noted. “It’s normal practice to put a county on a three or four year rotation to spray drainage ditches, and most counties go with the three-year rotation. Pocahontas County uses a four-year plan, however.”

 Reffer noted that after all of a county’s drainage ditches have been treated once, the cost for such work usually declines. His company charges $92 an hour for the services of a two-man crew and their equipment and labor; chemical charges are not included.

When asked about tree growth, Reffer noted his crews will not treat trees that are over 10 to 15 feet in height.

“Isn’t it better to cut those off than treat them anyway?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.

“We’d rather treat them first, then cut them, and stump treatments are kind of a hit-or-miss proposition,” Reffer answered.

The board asked Fantz what plans Secondary Roads had for ditch spraying this fall, and if it might conflict with having B&W do some work.

“Steve Westfall was going to do a full evaluation of all the drainage ditches this Fall to see who was going to do what,” noted Fantz. “I think the option to consider would be to let Don hit the whole county over a couple of years, but I also know that one of the concerns of this board is to keep payroll in the county. Is there anything you can do to alleviate that concern?”

“I’m not sure about that,” Reffer replied. “For us, licensing is the biggest concern. We used to have summer help, but we have to have full time people. We could certainly advertise for help locally, I wouldn’t have any opposition to hiring local people, but the commute to Algona could get old.  I have 14 guys who travel a lot – everyone is out of town this week on jobs.  We work on 35 to 40 counties each year on drainage work.”

After some further discuss, Supervisor Ed Noonan offered a suggestion to hire B&W to spray a couple of ditches on a trial basis.

“Do you guys have the time to spray the drainage ditches?” Supervisor Keith Wirtz asked Fantz and Neary.

“We’ve got plenty to do, speaking for Secondary Roads,” Fantz answered.

“I’d have to look at hiring more help,” Neary said, “Plus keeping up with the road ditches.”

“You’d get behind on the right-of-way ditches?” Board Chair Jerry Hofstad asked Neary.

“Is there enough right-of-way to keep you busy, without the drainage ditches?”

Neary answered to the affirmative.

“Would you care if we gave a couple of these small ditches to our local forces?” Supervisor Ron Graettinger asked Reffer.

“No, in fact, I’d be willing to go with Steve when he evaluates the ditches to get a better feel for what’s out there,” Reffer answered.

With that, Noonan moved to hire B&W Controls to conduct spraying on Drainage Ditch 84 this year and Joint DD 63 next year, when they spray the south end of the joint ditch in Pocahontas County. The motion was unanimous.

“We’ll see what needs to be done after we evaluate and then we’ll get organized,” Hofstad said.

“We’ll also let local law enforcement know when we’re out there so that landowners know who is out working along the drainage ditches,” Reffer added.