Supervisors Deny Conservation Easement, Award $3.76M+ Asphalt Bid

The Custer County Board of Supervisors held their regular meeting on Tuesday, December 14 with the focus being on a conservation easement application and an asphalt bid. Custer County landowner Tom Molyschek had applied for a conservation easement which must be approved by the county before continuing through with the contract with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Earlier this year, the Supervisors had stated they would oppose programs that could eventually place restrictions on land usage that would not fit with Custer County’s goals for the land. During the meeting, Zoning Administrator Darci Tibbs stated the Zoning Commission had denied the conservation easement due to it going against the public interest and it was inconsistent with the comprehensive plan that was adopted by the county.

Tibbs said the comprehensive plan for the county focuses on protecting ag uses and it was the Zoning Commissions’ opinion the easement was limiting the land for ag use. In the easement, it stated the landowner would have to receive written permission from the NRCS to hay, plant, or allow cattle to graze the land.

Supervisor Don Olson stated the county was concerned with permanent conservation easements and the future problems they could create within the county. Olson said the problem with the current easement was it would remain in the easement forever no matter who owned it in the future. The board was also concerned if the land had no way to provide income in the future, a valuation protest could result in the land being taken off the tax roll and placing a burden on other taxpayers.

Based on the proposed acquisition, the board voted to follow the recommendation by the Zoning Commission and deny the conservation easement based on the easement not being in the public’s best interest and not being consistent with the current comprehensive plan for the area.

The lone bid of $3,767,369.79 for road work that is to be completed next year was awarded to Paulsen Inc. of Cozad after the evaluation by the engineer did not go as hoped. At their November meeting, the Supervisors accepted the bid from Paulsen, but wanted the engineer from Miller and Associates to look into possible ways to reduce some of the cost of the project. On Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Chris Jacobsen said the engineer was only able to find a cost reduction of just under $50,000. The reduction was based on changing the type of asphalt used on part of the 12 miles of road that is set to be fixed.

The change of asphalt would be a lesser quality on a road that receives a high volume of traffic.  A few of the Supervisors felt using the lesser quality and only having around $50,000 taken off of the contract was not a good enough payoff. The board unanimously agreed to reject the price reduction and award the original bid amount of $3,767,369.79.

Also approved during the meeting was transferring funds from the County General Fund to the Road Fund, approving the juvenile Service Grant application for Healing Hearts & Families, correcting a word on a previous resolution, re-appointing the extension board member in District IV, and directing the Custer County Treasurer to mail the 2021 tax statements.