Permit delay stymies road plan


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A recent update from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about the state of the permit submitted for the construction on Copi Road over Clear Creek has delayed the project from moving forward.

Greg Parker, a Johnson County Engineering and Secondary Road Department engineer, said at the Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday that the department has informed his office that it’s looking at a minimum of three to five months to get the required permits back.

“I am flabbergasted how the state, with a billion dollars of surplus, giving away $300 million in tax cuts this year to Wall Street corporations, ” Supervisor Janelle Rettig said. “How they can fail to manage their government to the degree that a simple permit takes five months?”

Rettig said she is disturbed by the lack of efficiency in the government and how the people have accepted this level of service. She pointed out this permit would take under an hour to review and is “no big deal.”

The 79-year-old Copi Road is part of the five-year secondary road-construction plan intended to improve road conditions. This plan would fix the bridge on Copi Road’s narrow, functionally obsolete, structurally deficient steel-truss bridge. Its closure was originally scheduled for November and was set to reopen in the spring of 2015, Parker said.

Natural Resources officials told Parker the permit delay is due to backlog and staffing issues caused by employee cuts and the hiring freeze at a state level.

Parker said two of the required permits the county needs are the Corps of Engineers permit and the Iowa Natural Recources permit for any bridge replacements. The Corps of Engineers permit should only take about 30-45 days to get back, he said.

“This is a more simple permit for [Natural Recources] to review,” Parker said.

In the time passed between submission of the Copi permit and now, the road has been closed as a result of a failed routine structural inspection, according to the five-year construction plan. Major substructure elements were determined to be unstable in the inspection.

Parker said it is unfortunate that Copi Road has been closed, because his department was hoping to get another five or six months use from the bridge, up until it would need to be closed in the fall for replacement construction.

Supervisors John Etheredge said the supervisors are looking for, at the latest, a spring starting date next year for the project.

Parker said the closure has a negative impact on Johnson County because it hurts the public and agriculture and the detour is long.

“The costs associated with roads and bridges continue to climb and continue to be a very strong priority to the Board of Supervisors,” Supevisor Chairman Terrence Neuzil said.

The more time the project takes, the more it will cost, Parker said.

“We’re hoping and crossing our fingers for no more curve balls,” he said.

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