Residents Raged at Rural Roads in Jasper County

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JASPER COUNTY, Iowa -- A simple drive down secondary roads is not so simple and basically impossible in Jasper County.

Residents are frustrated with the conditions of their rural roads, saying this is the worst they have ever seen them. Those residents are wondering when, if ever, they will get fixed.

“My farmer has lived in this neighborhood for 70 years. He's over 70 and he said this is the worst he's ever seen,” Jasper County resident Jim Young said.

Every day, Young gets in his car and drives down his rural road, in between Prairie City and Mitchellville, swerving and sliding through a mud filled road.

Luckily, Young has a large three-quarter-ton, four-wheel drive truck with mud tires, but other county residents are not so lucky.

“It's just a shame when my wife has to miss work. She's had to miss five days of work because a normal car can't get in and out of these country roads. They are just Class B mud roads,” Young said, meaning many of the county's over 924 miles of granular surfaced roads are impassable.

“Now the roads are so bad from years and years of negligence, if they do try to address a bad stretch, it's like throwing a coffee cup full of rock down on a road that's so bad within days you’ll never know they were there,” Young said.

Jasper County agreed that roads are suffering from neglect, but the wet winter and early thaw really brought things to a head.

“Right now we've got a severe frost boil issue. We've got well over 100 that we've counted and tracked,” Jasper County Engineer Russ Stutt said.

A frost boil is when the road thaws on the surface, trapping the moisture between the frozen layer below. Repairs have to wait until the road dries, and even then complete reconstruction isn't an option due to budgets.

“Unfortunately that's about $50,000 a mile just for rock to do that, so we just don't have the resources to do that all over the county,” Stutt said.

They are trying to mend some wounds. So far they have put down almost 33,000 tons of gravel just this calendar year, but it's still not enough.

“Some of our guys call it triage,” Stutt said. “We’re just trying to go to as many places as possible and try to get as many people out as possible.”

This current fiscal year Jasper County allocated $1.75 million to secondary roads, and they have amended that twice to provide more funds. They say this next fiscal year they will shift as much of the budget as they can to their roads department.

They also said they have talked with other counties in the state, and they are not the only ones dealing with this issue.

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