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Local

Engineer proposes changes to rural driveways policy

Supervisors table drafted amendment so public has chance to know more details

Jodi Johnson, in a 2019 photo, stands in a deep ditch near her property, which was created in part by heavy rains. If the board of supervisors approve the engineer’s request to amend the county’s entrance and driveway policy, citizens will be responsible for maintaining their driveway and entrances and make sure there is proper drainage.
Jodi Johnson, in a 2019 photo, stands in a deep ditch near her property, which was created in part by heavy rains. If the board of supervisors approve the engineer’s request to amend the county’s entrance and driveway policy, citizens will be responsible for maintaining their driveway and entrances and make sure there is proper drainage.

To ensure the public is properly aware of the engineer’s proposal to amend county policy regarding entrances and driveways to rural properties or fields, the board of supervisors decided to table the action until next week.

Jasper County Engineer Russ Stutt presented a revised draft of the policy to supervisors at its Tuesday, July 28, meeting, but he first pitched the idea a few weeks ago. Stutt opted to remove the $50 permit fee for new or modified entrances and wanted more maintenance responsibility given to owners.

At the July 7 meeting, Stutt proposed the county could ease regulations on what materials property owners can use for culvert piping in entrances and driveways. Brandon Talsma, chair of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, told Newton News that spiral or riveted metal, plastic or concrete pipes would be acceptable.

Pipes may also be bevel cut to match the slope of the driveway or entrance. The minimum size of a drainage pipe is 15 inches. Entrance tops will be a minimum of 18 feet and a maximum of 40 feet in width; exemptions for the 40-foot maximum may be allowed for agricultural purposed.

If the amended policy is approved, Jasper County will no longer replace bad culverts in driveways. Talsma clarified that even though it is not an extremely expensive task, it does demand more hours from county engineering crews’ and can delay the completion of other projects.

Property owners must maintain their entrances and driveways provide proper drainage. If not, they will be notified by the county to rectify the issue, according to newly drafted policy. If the issue is not addressed, the county will perform the necessary work, but the owner assumes all related costs.

An exception to this is when Jasper County’s own road work — like the elevation of a road — directly interferes with or alters an existing entrance. If this occurs, the county will acknowledge the damage is not the home owner’s fault and will ultimately fix the driveway.

According to the drafted policy, the county “is not responsible for maintaining the surface material of entrances and reserves the right to remove hard surfacing such as concrete or asphalt if it is deemed necessary by the Jasper County Engineer or their authorized representatives.”

Other changes to the county’s field entrance and driveway policy include:

• All entrances shall slope away from the road and shoulder at a minimum of a five percent grade for a minimum of eight feet where possible. This is approximately five inches.

• Side slopes for entrances shall be three-to-one on granular-surfaced roads and six-to-one on hard-surfaced roads. The end sections of culverts shall either be safety slope aprons or bevel cut to match the required slope.

• Minimum sight distance on granular-surfaced roads is 500 feet.

• Minimum sight distance on hard-surfaced road is dependent on the posted speed limit. The sight distance must be 550 feet for 55 mph; 470 feet for 50 mph; 400 feet for 45 mph; 340 feet for 40 mph; 275 feet for 35 mph; 220 feet for 30 mph; and 170 feet for 25 mph.

• If a minimum sight distances cannot be met, it is the owner’s responsibility to obtain an easement from a neighboring parcel where sight distance is sufficient.

• Entrances should be 200 feet from an intersection or a bridge structure.

• Jasper County will size drainage structures based on drainage area, stream slope, terrain and depth of ditch.

• Jasper County has the right to remove any entrance that does not have adequate drainage or sight distance. Jasper County has the right to relocate an entrance to another location accessing the property.

• Jasper County will return any entrance affected by road construction projects to as close as possible the condition prior to the project.

Jasper County Supervisor Doug Cupples was concerned with the policy rule regarding the county’s right to remove or relocate entrances without adequate drainage or sight distance. Cupples said it is open to the possibility of the county removing the entrance regardless of the property owner’s objections.

Cupples admitted the chances of the county doing this is slim. Stutt came up with a very specific scenario that fit Cupples’ concerns. To avoid confusion, Cupples said he would add “without prior board approval” to the policy language in that particular section. On the other hand, Talsma said it would be redundant.

“I don’t think it’s really necessary,” Talsma said.

Cupples added, “You’re telling me that if someone came in and removed one of your driveways, just because they wanted to, you’d be OK with it?”

“They’re not going to do it just because they want to though,” Talsma answered, later referring to state code that would prevent the county from, for example, ripping out his driveway and not providing him another access to his field. “…We can’t prevent somebody from having access to their field.”

Regardless, the supervisors decided to table the request in order to make sure the public has been more than notified of the proposed changes.

To view the policy in full, visit www.co.jasper.ia.us/AgendaCenter and download the July 28 board of supervisors agenda. The Jasper County Board of Supervisors will review the proposal again at its Aug. 4 meeting.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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