A pungent feedlot aroma and gray clouds threatening rain hung over Barton County Feeders Tuesday morning.
The smell is just part of doing feedlot business. But the rain, recent heavy rains especially, have made doing that business more difficult, Barton County Feeders Office Manager Mitch Mulch told Barton County commissioners who paid a visit to the business located south of Ellinwood to study the flooding issue.
“We have a lot of traffic go in and out of here every day,” Mulch said. By the time the commissioners arrived Tuesday, there had already been over 22 80,000-pound semi-trucks pass through the gates.
In 2013, BCF estimates 5,000 trucks went in and out, or 27.5 trips down the road per day.
And that is part of the problem. Barton County Feeders sits at 1164 SE 40 Road, straddling the dirt township route, in Comanche Township.
Rain turns that road into a muddy soup. Then the heavy rigs just cut deep ruts which fill with water.
The trucks slip and slide and/or get stuck. This causes business delays, as well as safety issues, Mulch said.
The road had been graded since the showers and showed little signs of the recent quagmire. But Mulch showed photos of the mess to commissioners as they huddled around him Tuesday outside his office.
“He does all he can do,” Mulch said of the township representative who runs the road grader. “He works hard.”
However, with all that use, it is difficult to maintain, said BCF Manager Alan Pohlman. “That’s a lot of trucks.”
Also, when it comes to its customers, bad roads are not an excuse for BCF to not deliver, Pohlman said.
Commissioners Don Davis and Jennifer Schartz asked about the township’s budget and how much of it went to taking care of roads. There are other roads requiring attention and other responsibilities for township officials.
“Your business relies on that,” Davis said of SE 40. He suggested BCF be willing to pitch in more to help so other resources could be spent meeting the needs of all township residents.
Mulch said they do help maintain the road. They spread rock and take other steps.
In addition, BCF has a significant economic impact, he said. With over 20 employees who live in the county, it purchased $17 million in corn, wheat, hay and other feed-related items in 2013 with total expenses before interest and depreciation of $2,781,528.
They are also planning on building a new feed mill. That will benefit the county, but will also bring more traffic to the road.
“There is no doubt you are a valuable asset,” Commission Chairman Kenny Schremmer said.
No action could be taken on the spot and the matter will come up at a future meeting. The Commission will await a report from County Engineer Clark Rusco and Road and Bridge Director Dale Phillips.
Technically, Phillip’s department only maintains the paved county roads, leaving the others to the townships. But, there have been instances of cooperation between the county and townships in the past.
County Administrator Richard Boeckman said besides BCF’s flooding concerns, there were very few other complaints related to the storms.