Safety over money

Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor


Three Weston County commissioners recently used their voting power to put safety of residents over money in the coffers. On Aug. 20, during the Weston County commissioners meeting, Chairman Tony Barton and Commissioners Ed Wagoner and Tracy Hunt voted to move forward with bids to install a heated concrete ramp at the law enforcement center, replacing the ramp and stairs that had previously been deemed unsafe by Structural Dynamics an engineering firm hired by the county. 

In March of this year, Barton reported to the commission that during a visit with Structural Dynamics at the law enforcement center, it was determined that the access to the building appeared to be in need of replacement before winter. 

The report said that some of the rebar underneath the concrete, which should be in tension, had deteriorated badly and could collapse. Barton said that any shifting could cause the ramp and stairs to fall, creating a safety hazard for anyone entering or exiting the law enforcement center. 

In June, one month before the commissioners set the county’s budget, the county’s maintenance professional, Steve Price, said the stairs and ramp at the law enforcement center were highest on the priority list of needed repairs in the county. He said that the study on the ramp and stairs made the safety concerns clear and that they should not be used through another winter. 

“It seems like every day it is deteriorating more. It is down to strictly safety. Down there to me is a serious situation,” Price said. “We need to make sure we have the money for down there.” 

Commissioner Marty Ertman suggested the county go to the State Lands and Investment board for grant monies because costs associated with the repairs were estimated at $250,000. She also asked whether alternative access was available in case repairs could not be completed immediately. 

“There is no other way. With the security of that building, there is no choice of how you get into the building. I don’t believe there is an option to use the back door,” Price said. 

The discussion was again brought to the table on Aug. 20 when Ertman said that the commission needed to make a decision on what would be requested by the county from the SLIB board. She said that the project could be presented in January and that the emergency funding could possibly be awarded with a 20% county match. 

If this route were to be taken, construction wouldn’t start until the summer of 2020. 

“It’s deteriorating pretty fast. It’s in poor shape,” Price said. “Everyone knows what was in the study. It shouldn’t be in use this winter.”

He explained that if the county were to put off the construction until next summer, there would be no other public access to the facility. 

“This was brought to the commission a year ago, we sat on it, and now we have an emergency,” Hunt said, noting that Ertman’s idea to get grant money is valid but would “paint ourselves into a corner this winter.” 

Price said that the safety of the public and the amount of traffic the law enforcement center sees has to remain at the forefront of the discussion. Hunt added that liability is certainly established by the study if something were to happen. 

With the hopes of avoiding a “catastrophic” event if the ramp were to fail during the 2019 winter months, Hunt, Barton and Wagoner voted in favor of a motion to “move foreword immediately with bids to install a heated concrete ramp this fall” from the county building and grounds balance account.


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