By Jared Janzen
Township officials in Harvey County have seen an increased amount of reckless driving causing damage to rural roads, and they say it’s time for it to stop.
“It’s like every time you grade the roads, somebody comes and does donuts in the intersection and makes it almost impossible for people to go through safely,” Jeff Stein, grader operator for Sedgwick Township, said. “So then you’ve got to go back out and grade it again. It ends up not being a cheap deal.”
Stein said the problem with donuts in intersections has gotten worse in the past six months.
“It used to be once in a while and I could deal with that, but here’s a good example,” he said. “The other day I graded from Mission Road on 36th to Ridge Road and back, that’s two miles, and I go about six miles an hour. I get back and they’ve done donuts in the intersection I had just graded.”
These donut problems have happened at intersections all across Sedgwick Township.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” Stein said.
Stein said he’s given the sheriff’s office a list of about half a dozen license plate numbers of vehicles he’s seen doing donuts. He also encouraged rural residents to report reckless driving to reduce the problem and keep their roads in better shape.
Sedgwick Township has grown so frustrated with the problem that they plan to set up four cameras at various intersections to catch the perpetrators, according to Trustee Justin Stucky.
“There will be charges filed and restitution paid,” he said.
He added that the cameras would be his own trail cameras. If that intersection is torn up, they’ll go back and check the footage for a vehicle description.
“We’ve got all these nice roads and Jeff is doing an unbelievable job taking care of the roads, but somebody’s out there spinning kitties in the intersection,” Stucky said. “A lot of the intersections are remote, but they’re still tearing up the road. Then that requires the township to spend more manpower and equipment time repairing it again.”
Stein and Stucky estimated it costs $100 or $150 every time they have to regrade an intersection because of donuts, with Stucky noting the problem is probably costing taxpayers $1,000 each month.
“That grader itself is a very expensive piece of equipment,” Stucky said. “It requires fuel and a driver, and we pay extremely well. I’m going to say easily the per hour cost is $150 per hour.”
Terry Jacob, the grader operator for Lakin Township, has noticed similar problems.
“Mine has mostly involved intersections,” he said. “They go round and round in the intersection and really make it rough and then we get complaints.”
The intersection at Spring Lake Road and 96th got so bad from donuts that Jacob recently had to add more gravel to it.
“The intersection was lower than the roads because they spun the gravel out and made a divot there, a depression,” he said. “I had to rebuild that.”
Jacob said he didn’t have any plans at this point to put cameras out in Lakin Township, but he acknowledged this was a possible solution to what seems to be a never-ending problem.
“It’s kind of a slap in the face to the grader operator who takes time to make good roads and tries to do a good job, and then they do that,” Jacob said.
Jacob urged parents to be aware of the problem and have a conversation with their teen about proper driving habits.
“I was young once too, and maybe I did a little or was with someone who did, but this just gets to be repetitious and expensive,” he said.
Stucky also saw educating the public as a solution. The men believe high school students are most likely to blame, although they acknowledged it could be some adults.
“It’s time to be proactive with it at this point,” Stucky said. “It just takes time and a little bit of education to the public, too.”