Murdo Projects Improve Infrastructure in Transportation and Education
Tue, 12/10/2019 - 4:31pm admin
by Elizabeth “Liz” Meighen
Before long, we will be ringing in a new decade and celebrating the start of 2020. A great deal of progress has been made within and surrounding Murdo this past year. Major projects for the community in 2019 included new sidewalks, a new facility for Jones County Elementary School (JCES) and the state Highway 83 highway improvement project.
These projects serve the community well, contribute to the curb appeal and invoke civic pride. Now, the community’s elders can use their walkers on the sidewalks to safely go down the street. Parents send their children to a school knowing they are being educated in a safe and secure facility. For those who travel between the communities of Murdo and White River, South Dakota Highway 83 will offer a new, safe roadway.
Before the contractors began the sidewalk project, the city submitted grant applications to the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SD-DOT). The planning for this project began approximately seven years ago and encountered snafus in funding approval. Finally, the city received approval for a program that encompassed “a variety of smaller-scale transportation projects such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities, recreational trails [and] safe routes to school projects.”
Krysti Barnes, finance officer for the city of Murdo, noted the program entails a split of the total cost—18% to the city, 82% to the state—estimated at approximately $560,000. Anderson Contractors, Inc., Ft. Pierre, received the contract for the total construction of the project that encompassed eight blocks, including a retaining wall located south of JCES. The elements of this unusually wet year, delayed the start and affected project progress.
Anderson formed and poured the sidewalks with crosswalks that provide a smooth transition to the street, sloping to street level with a safety traction approach. This project is a work in progress and brings a better quality of life to many residents. If the weather doesn’t present significant delays, the projected completion of this project is the spring or summer of 2020. In the future, the city hopes to obtain funding to proceed with installation of more sidewalks, interconnecting the community and offering a safe way to walk through the community to visit or to just take a stroll with friends.
JCES staff and students recently moved from the old school into the new, 16,900 square foot facility. It is a gem for the community and will serve the educational needs of children today and future generations. The former school opened in 1965 during the age of “George Jetson.” The new school boasts technology similar to that seen in the treasured 1962 sitcom. The new JCES utilizes wireless network technology and a public address system featuring two-way intercommunications in each classroom. The fire protection system includes sprinklers, smoke and heat detectors in addition to the security of a locked down facility. A central foyer allows administrators to properly vet visitors before obtaining access to the building.
Concerns for integrity of the structure arose in 2013, prompting an inspection of the building. The findings indicated damage to the masonry block structure, a result of the nature of shifting soils within the region. After extensive planning, the Jones County School Board committed to a final design, secured financing and hired a contractor in June 2017. The contractor projected a completion date to coincide with the start of the 2019 school year but extreme weather conditions caused delays. Lorrie Esmay, JCES principal and superintendent for Jones County Schools, shared the positive comments as everyone enjoys the new facility noting that staff and students quickly settled into the new building.
In the entry hall, an antique bell is proudly displayed along with its history in the Jones county educational system. The first school, built in 1906, started as a humble, three room structure clad in tar paper. As the need arose for a larger school, a two-story, clapboard sided structure replaced the three room school house in 1909. The new JCES sits upon the site of the former 1909 two-story schoolhouse and the bell, used to summon children to school a century ago, is returned to its original location.
The next project consists of razing the old JCES to make way for a new playground. Asbestos abatement crews plan to remove hazardous materials and demolition is slated for the summer of 2020. The school plans to install playground equipment and fencing on the 50’ x 200’ lot. The brick from the old school will be sold to raise funds for new playground equipment and used to build a new JCES sign. The new JCES provides a wonderful facility for the staff and students of today and tomorrow.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SD-DOT) commenced with a paving project on state Highway 83 from Murdo to White River earlier this year. Zandstra Construction, Inc., Rapid City, received the contract spanning from Jones into Mellette county over the course of two years. Zandstra continued with work until the arrival of cooler weather. According to Doug Sherman, SD-DOT area engineer, the project progresses in phases and includes a new bridge and two box culverts on the Jones county side. On the Mellette county side, there are two new bridges spanning the Little White and Big White Rivers and one box culvert. An interim surface, consisting of milled asphalt and gravel, receives a primer coat, oiling the roadway in a petroleum based product, then it receives a blotter finish, consisting of a thickened chip seal finish.
Next spring, construction crews plan to apply a finished surface over the established roadway as the traffic compacts the interim surface over time with varying temperatures, providing a solid and well established base resulting in a better finished surface. The distance of the paving project is from Murdo to White River is approximately 20 miles.
These three projects brought improvements to the infrastructure of the community, offering a facility to educate its children and improving transportation between the two communities. Murdo plans to continue with improving its infrastructure, to actively seek funding for other projects and further commit to developing and investing within the community.