To the editor:

I would like to comment on the Jefferson County Highway Department's effort to improve the current facility. I worked for many years at the Highway Department and have a first-hand knowledge of how cramped and inefficient the area has become. I was glad to hear that some expansion could take place for several reasons.

First, equipment can be quickly accessed without double parking and careful maneuvering. This can be important in a snow emergency, or a disaster like the 2012 tornado.

Secondly, the department has nearly 600 miles of roadway to take care of. Supplies like extra culverts, salt, and cinders, need to be stored in a safe, efficient manner for the benefit of residents. The county is now paying rent to store some cinders off-site.

Lastly, to relocate the department would be a costly task for Jefferson County taxpayers. The state of Indiana paid $1 million for the state highway substation at the Jefferson Proving Grounds. That was for the land alone, and did not include the other expenses. The proposed expansion is reasonable when you compare it to an expensive move.

The Jefferson County Highway Department work hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. During emergencies, those hours can lengthen. Above ground gas tanks serve the county, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, the Town of Hanover, and during emergencies, the City of Madison. However, these are on existing grounds and would not impact the expansion area.

It is my understanding that county officials have compromised with neighbors on Meadow Lane by agreeing to keep the area adjacent to Meadow Lane in residential zoning, building a berm, and planting additional trees as a further property buffer. The department will be a good neighbor, and there will not be a difference in noise from the normal farming noise that was previously present in the area.

Madison Chemical is one of Jefferson County's good corporate citizens, and will continue to be a good neighbor as well. Residents of this area will still be able to "walk, run, bicycle, and push strollers" on Meadow Lane. The zoning would include an emergency exit onto Meadow Lane, but neither the county or Madison Chemical, plan to use that road except in the event of a fire or other emergency that would prevent them from using the normal Clifty Drive exits/entrances.

I am very proud of my service to the Jefferson County Highway Department and continue to be very proud of the crew that maintains our county. I would not hesitate to live near them. Thank you for letting me give my opinion.

Bruce Rowlison