Council hopes speed zone change makes area safer

A new city ordinance passed Thursday night will reduce the speed zone on Highway 75 south of Tekamah from 65 to 50 miles per hour.

A recent change in state law, pushed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, increased the speed limits on most two lane roads to 65 miles per hour. While the change helps transportation in general, it made an already dangerous situation on the south side of Tekamah even worse.

On Highway 75 heading south out of the city, a 50 miles per hour zone begins just south of B St. and ends at the Pump Shop’s driveway. From there south, it’s 65. Two retail business and a fertilizer plant are inside the current 65 zone and city officials have long been concerned about full speed highway traffic in the congested area.

To help make the area safer, Tekamah City Council on Thursday passed with the emergency clause Ordinance 1241.

The ordinance extends the 50 mph zone to roughly a quarter-mile north of County Road F, approximately the driveway to ERW, the southernmost edge of the city’s corporate limit. The state transportation department also will keep the lower limit another 300 feet to the south.

Mayor Ron Grass said he had spoken to former Dist. 16 State Sen. Lydia Brasch as recently as last fall and was told the state Department of Transportation did not think a change was justified. Grass said a new traffic study conducted by the state shows the change is warranted, triggering the ordinance process.

The emergency clause allows the council to pass the ordinance without the three public readings as required in most instances.

The DOT was to be notified immediately. The change becomes effective once new speed signs are posted.

In other business Feb. 28, the council:

—Accepted a proposal from Groundwater Solutions Group to perform rehabilitation on one city water well. The project is estimated to cost $56,000. The city also formally accepted a $40,000 grant from Nebraska Environmental Trust and another $10,000 from Papio-Missouri River natural Resources District to help fund the project.

The city has five wells, all of which have a history of nitrate contamination. GSG spokesman Tom Christopherson credit water department employees with sound management practices that have kept nitrate infiltration to a minimum, but he cautioned that eventually the level of contamination will become too great to overcome by management practice alone.

The targeted well site is the most productive well the city has. It also is surrounded by four smaller wells. Christopherson said those four would be decommissioned and the main well rehabbed to prevent further contamination.

Each of the city’s wells is comprised of an upper zone, a clay layer and the lower production zone. Christopherson said previous well-drilling practices called for the well to be drilled through the clay layer which was then packed off with gravel. He said studies have shown contaminants migrate from the upper zone to the lower zone, contaminating every well using the lower zone.

The process his company uses recreates the natural barrier between the two zones.

“What we’ll do is trap the contaminants in the upper zone and pump from the lower zone,” he said.

A new well would cost approximately $200,000. Water Operator Tony Daugherty said the most recent well the city had dug produces about one-third as much water as the one GSG intends to fix.

“You’d need three of ‘em to take the place of that one well,” he said.