Early discussion of turning 61st Street south of Vinton into a gravel road took place between nearby property owners, representatives from Benton County and Vinton-Shellsburg CSD on Thursday inside the school’s conference room at the central office.
“Our mission is to see what we can do with 61st Street and what it would take to make improvements so the road could be something that resembles a farm to market road,” Wayne Siela, a resident pushing the movement said. “You have roughly 1,000 students and staff members who are impacted by ag traffic, mostly in the fall and spring. It would be beneficial to all to have a safe road that would divert much of that traffic away from the school and give producers another way to enter Vinton.”
Siela’s and several property owners assembled their own committee in December to begin researching and formulating a proposal to rock approximately 3,200 feet (.61 miles) with the initial plan of having the road ready for the fall harvest. Siela had brought recommendations before the County Supervisors on March 16, stating there was interest from the City of Vinton and Vinton-Shellsburg CSD in the project. By recommendation of Tracy Seeman, County Chairman, a joint meeting was planned. Due to a budgeting meeting, a representative from the City of Vinton was not present.
“Having this by harvest is off the table, but I’ll live with it,” Siela said. “I understand this is within the city limits, so I do not believe this should fall squarely on the county. We’re proposing something significant for the school district, and the trade off would be [their] participation of this project I feel.”
Cost could ring up between $405,000 to $500,000 according to County Engineer Myron Parizek, but these estimates are a guess without a survey or more research. Easements would need to be acquired 33 feet each side from the centerline of the road. This presented concerns if landowners would be open to these easements on their fields and losing production on their fields. Among the properties affected is the Vinton-Shellsburg FFA field, with an easement potential affecting two acres of their 13.5 acreage. Gabby Powers, VS FFA Advisor and a student representative were in attendance for the meeting.
I thought the conversation last night was as favorable to those impacted as it could be,” Powers said. “I was proud of our students (Christopher Fleming) and supporters (Susie and Eric Henkle) for sharing their thoughts in what would be the best option not only for our students, but the farming community and students too.”
The project also has the support of Benton County Farm Bureau, who wrote a letter to the county supervisors recently.
“With agriculture equipment growing in size, higher yields per acre, increased school and youth activity at the south end of the city of Vinton, we believe safety is a top priority for all of us as farmers and the community,” President Darren Stein wrote. “We would like to see a proactive approach to public safety with upgrading said road to Farm to Market grade. We anticipate a potential upgrade of the stated stretch of road would allow for semi-trucks, tractors, wagons, chemical applicators/sprayers, fertilizer equipment and suppliers to be diverted away from the Vinton Shellsburg school and surrounding growing residential areas.”
Siela stated if potential contributions from the county, City of Vinton and Vinton-Shellsburg CSD fell short of the cost, a General Obligation Bond would have to be explored.
“I believe we have friends at City Hall,” Siela said. “But I cannot speak for anyone until we discuss the cost.”
A representative of Shive Hattery Inc. of Cedar Rapids estimated a survey of the road would cost $12,000 to $15,000. Siela asked if the county would cover the cost. Seeman answered the county auditor “would look into it.” All parties hope to have the City of Vinton involved in future talks.