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Buckeye Road may get repaired

by Christy Chalmers

Douglas County Commissioner Steve Weissinger probably didn’t need to be reminded of the traffic accident involving his daughter to propose safety improvements where Buckeye Road zigs across an irrigation canal.

But Lombardy Road resident Garry Leiss recounted the incident Thursday, and a similar but deadly July 1998 accident, as he asked the county commission to consider spending the estimated $100,000 needed to improve the road.

The paved portion of Buckeye ends near a deep canal, and drivers must negotiate a sharp turn as they cross the canal. The unpaved portion of the road is often rutted and rough, so some drivers speed to minimize the rattles and bumps.

The canal crossing was the site of a July 1998 accident involving 17-year-old Jennifer Jo Smith of Minden. She was westbound on the dirt portion of the road when her car rolled into the canal. Smith was submerged for several minutes before emergency crews reached her. She died a few days later.

Emergency officials thought excessive speed may have been a factor.

Leiss, who was accompanied by Smith’s mother, said county officials have estimated a $100,000 cost to straighten the road where it crosses the canal and smooth the road bed with gravel.

He said local land owners are willing to contribute some of the cost, and that some have pledged help with grading and physical work.

“It would be nice if we could get the county to do the whole thing, but if we don’t, any way we look at it, we want to straighten this road out. It’s a hazard,” said Leiss.

Weissinger, whose teenage daughter was riding in a car that nearly went into the ditch earlier in the year, asked for an audit of leftover money from the 1998-99 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

“I don’t think the residents should have to pay for it,” said Weissinger, suggesting the extra money could be used for road improvements.

The commission unanimously agreed and will consider the request Oct. 7.