The Ottumwa Courier

November 12, 2013

Rock Bluff Road changes a concern

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The public hearing for the Rock Bluff Road grading and paving project Tuesday answered a few questions the public had, but it also left many aspects open for the moment.

Several land owners affected by the road project attended the Wapello County Supervisors' meeting to give comments and have their questions answered about how they'll be affect by the plans. County Engineer Brian Moore explained that this is very similar to the plan made a year ago, but several adjustments have been made in the meantime.

The county is working to get environmental clearances for the land along the proposed road, which has included an archeological study. The Phase 1 study found "artifacts," Moore said, and the Phase 2 study found even more.

"It's a significant artifact area that is protected. The state historical society deems it significant, so we're looking at the options," Moore said.

Those options include a Phase 3 study, which would be a full-blown removal of the artifacts in the area, or completely staying away from the area altogether. Right now, Moore explained the county is still working toward getting the environmental clearances, then they can look at individual properties to decide what land will be taken from which areas for the road.

Bruce Severson and many other neighbors in attendance said they were most concerned about not receiving information as it became available. He said there is a lot at stake property-wise if the right of ways carve out too much of the land owners' properties.

"It's not our intention to take more than we need," Supervisor Steve Siegel said.

Moore said there isn't much that can be done right now with the combination of the archeological site and the Indiana bat habitations along the area.

"Because of the environmental work, we can't do much more right now," Moore said. "We haven't gotten that far along yet. I'm limited to what I can say."

Supervisor Jerry Parker told the land owners that he was receiving updates from Moore, and he would be glad to pass them along, even if they simply stated that nothing had occurred.

Once those environmental issues are taken care of, right of ways will be laid out, owners will be contacted again and appraisals can be made of the land.

In addition, the road will also go through county-owned park land, but as with the private land, the lines have not been finalized here either. Moore said that because the process is so slow, it will probably be next spring before the next steps can be taken.

In other business:

• The board acknowledged and filed a new hire at public health, filling the part-time position left by moving another employee to full time.

• Approval was given to hire a new employee at the American Gothic House.

• Approval was given for a work-based learning agreement between Wapello County CPC and Job Corps.

"This is a really good deal," Parker said. "(Job Corps students) are getting real hands-on experience to tell potential employees. They'll be able to give record of their work experience."