BRITT – Some Hancock County residents are upset about what they call a “speed trap” south of Britt set up by the board of supervisors, but what they’re really upset about is an alleged underlying issue of government avoiding their own laws.
The area in question is south of Britt, at the corner of James Avenue and 220th Street. Recently, a speed limit of 35 miles per hour was created by the Hancock County Board of Supervisors. The move was made in reaction to a row of pines trees in the public right of way, which blocks the view for any drivers at the intersection of James Avenue and 220th Street. The county supervisors say they will pay to remove the trees and plants new ones, not in the right of way.
The conversation of “right of ways” in Hancock County has come up frequently lately. NIT is told by one local property owner in Hancock County that in April the Hancock County Supervisors decided to enforce a law preventing farmers from planting crops in the ditches, or the public right of way. A law that they had not been aggressively enforcing before. This move “upset many because we have time and money to survey right of way boundaries, but no money for rocks on the road.”
In reaction to the Hancock County Supervisors enforcing this law, Doug Verbrugge said, “we will stay out of the ditch with traffic hazard planted corn, but you need to get your own act together and remove the trees at multiple intersections south of Britt. They are in the right of way and block traffic view.” A motion to find out the cost of removal was made by Supervisor Sweers, but died from a lack of second.
JB Johnson, property owner in Hancock County commented that, “Several years ago a RAGBRAI bike rider was killed when his bike crashed due to poor conditions on the road. The bikers’ family sued and won. This year before RAGBRAI went through Hancock County, the supervisors spent $26,710.25 to seal coat ¾ of a mile on James Avenue south of Britt. This was done solely in fear of a lawsuit. Just a few hundred feet from this seal coating is the intersection of James Avenue and 220th Street, where these trees are located. After Doug Verbrugge went to a supervisor meeting and pointed out those trees in the right of way, they lowered the speed limit. They admit the intersection has problems, but won’t admit it’s their own trees.”
The move by the supervisors to lower the speed limit to 35 mph on James Avenue “really upset people,” said JB Johnson. “I put up a Facebook page to make them take a vote and not let it die again on Monday August 28th, when it comes up for another vote. Supervisor Greiman said the cost to remove the trees may be an issue, but we just spent over $26,000 to patch the same road for RAGBRAI that will be torn up next year. We have the money for out of town bikers, but no money for locals.”
Johnson said that he and other locals are looking at the bigger pictures on this issue. “We have a government that passes laws, aggressively enforces those laws on the citizens and landowners, but at the same time violates the same laws. A government that refuses to lives by its own laws is not a government for the people, but an entity of its own,” said Johnson.
Johnson said that it upsets him that they won’t go on the record one way or the other. “Bring it up to a vote. You were voted into that leadership role for a reason.”
At the Hancock County Supervisor meeting on August 21st, both the Hancock County Engineer, Adam Clemons, and the Hancock County Attorney, David Solheim, agreed that the trees are a hazard and are in violation of Iowa code 318.
318.3 Obstructions in highway right-of-way.
A person shall not place, or cause to be placed, an obstruction within any highway right-of-way. This prohibition includes, but is not limited to, the following actions:
1. The excavation, filling, or making of any physical changes to any part of the highway
right-of-way, except as provided under section 318.8.
2. The cultivation or growing of crops within the highway right-of-way.
3. The destruction of plants placed within the highway right-of-way.
4. The placing of fences or ditches within the highway right-of-way.
5. The alteration of ditches, water breaks, or drainage tiles within the highway
6. The placement of trash, litter, debris, waste material, manure, rocks, crops or crop
residue, brush, vehicles, machinery, or other items within the highway right-of-way.
7. The placement of billboards, signs, or advertising devices within the highway
Also at the August 21st meeting the Hancock County Engineer gave the supervisors pictures using county road equipment showing how trees block the view from the north.
Supervisor Sweers has put this issue on the agenda for the meeting on August 28th.
Johnson and Verbrugge hope that Supervisors Tlack and Griman do not let the issue die from a lack of a second again.
“If an accident happens again at this corner, it is not IF the county will be partially at fault for failing to remove the trees, but how big of check the taxpayers will have cover,” said Johnson.