Officials look to enforce flooded-road warnings


County Highway Supervisor Steve Berg is frustrated that people insist on driving across flooded roads.

He told the Dubois County Commissioners Monday that it is futile to put up the signs if people just ignore them and are not fined for violation.

“If it’s not going to be enforced, I’m wasting my time and workers’ time,” he explained. “We have signs and cones, and people push them out of the way.”

Berg noted an incident this past weekend on County Road 200 West where five people had to be rescued from a vehicle. And an incident occurred Monday morning on County Road 300 North, he said. In both cases, flip signs were up; those signs are drilled into the ground and cannot be removed.

Commissioners President Nick Hostetter said that people use the excuse of not seeing the signs, but he believes those drivers are actually very familiar with the road. “Most of the people going through this are local people who know the road and that it floods,” he said, “but choose to try and go through anyway.”

For some reason, some drivers insist on driving though despite seeing water on the roads.

“We’ve seen cases of cars getting stuck in water and other cars trying to drive around them to go through the waters,” Berg said.

The commissioners said that they will contact law enforcement about issuing tickets for disregarding the signs. It could be that officers hesitate to give tickets in situations where the drivers damage or total the vehicle, Commissioner Elmer Brames said. But the commissioners agreed that drivers need to be deterred from driving across flooded roads.

Officials are considering placing flood gates on County Road 400 South, since it is prone to flooding. It is a problem area because people still drive through despite water being on the road. The western gate would be placed west of the railroad tracks; the eastern gate would be located just south of County Road 375 South. The gates would be similar to the gates on Kellerville Road near Cathy Lane. Flood gates stay closed until the water is no longer on the road and any debris is cleared from the road.

Brames asked Berg if he has heard from drivers about flood gates on Old Huntingburg Road not being open as soon as water no longer covers the road. The department monitors the closed roads until the end of the work day. If the water goes down in the evening, the gates are opened the next morning, Berg said. If the water goes down on the weekend, Berg tries to get someone there to open the gates “so that the road isn’t closed for the weekend.”

“We have to be practical,” Berg said. “We don’t have a person sitting there monitoring all the time. Sometimes there is debris on a road, so we must get a machine to get debris off the road [before it can be opened].”

The commissioners also:

• Hired Jeana Mathies as the new 911 director. Mathies, who is currently assistant director, will start training on Feb. 1. She will assume the position when current Director Janice Love retires March 29. Commissioner Chad Blessinger, who sits on the 911 Advisory Board, said that the board will search for a new assistant director and recommend a candidate to the commissioners in February.

• Heard that the Indiana Department of Transportation is looking to meet in January about the railroad crossing at County Road 600 West. A request has been made to have crossing arms at the crossing, which was the site of an accident in September.

• Decided to ask companies that specialize in financial planning to give them a presentation on their services. The commissioners hope to get some direction concerning the county’s finances as it pertains to future improvements to the county’s justice system, which is currently being studied, as well as overall planning for capital improvements to all county facilities.

• Approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of tobacco products in county-owned facilities; smoking is already not allowed.

• Hired Messmer Mechanical to do the work on the Dubois County Security Center’s chiller for $116,050

• Approved the annual freeze-thaw ordinance, which will be in effect from Jan. 15 to April 15. During that time period, county roads will have a 10-ton weight limit. Vehicles that have a reason to be on a particular county road, like delivery trucks, can still use the roads.

• Heard from Blessinger that the county’s ambulance contract with Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center is being reviewed and discussed with hospital and insurance representatives.

• Heard a synopsis on the hazmat exercise held Oct. 6 at Farbest Foods. Dubois County Emergency Management Director Tammy Humbert and the county Local Emergency Planning Committee member Pat Todd told the commissioners that various emergency agencies and members of the public were involved.

• Thanked County Auditor Kathy Hopf, County Recorder Becky Gates, County Assessor Gail Gramelspacher, County Clerk Brigette Jarboe and County Attorney Art Nordhoff for their service to the county. They are all retiring from their posts this year.

• Reminded the public that the Dubois, Ferdinand, Huntingburg, Ireland and Jasper sanitation sites will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. All sanitation sites will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The sites are also closed on Wednesdays, which is normal.

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