The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Todd Steven's final day as La Harpe Township Road Commissioner is today

by Dessa Rodeffer, The Quill

La Harpe- Todd Stevens is looking forward to more traveling after his retirement today as La Harpe Township's Road Commissioner. He plans on joining his wife on more horseback riding trips, visiting the grandkids, and making trips to Texas to their daughter's and family and to a sister in Fort Myers, Florida. "Retirement allows for winter retreats in warmer places," he said.

He leaves behind a career of taking care of 48 miles of roads in La Harpe Township, a job, he says he has enjoyed, although it and the winter months has given him many challenges.

Donald "Todd" Stevens began working for the Township under his dad, Donald Todd Stevens starting in 1972. After "Don" retired, Todd ran for his Dad's position in 1989 and every 4 years since, finishing 31 years in the position of La Harpe Road Commissioner.

Taking Todd's position will be Dwayne Berlett who is a heavy equipment operator. Berlett's official appointment by the Township Trustees will be made at their meeting on October 8th. "I will be working for him on a part time basis when needed, "Todd said.

Every four years Township elections are held in April following the December Caucus where nominees are selected for the positions. He said after the election the new officers take their positions the first Monday in May and that is when the work begins for the Road Commissioner.

Township officials will have a training session for all newly elected officials. The Road Commissioner makes an Appropriation Ordinance Budget for funds received from property taxes. Todd always did this until of late when the Township turned the paperwork over to Wood Tax & Accounting. The budget usually is the same every year with few changes. He advises of any large equipment purchases or bridge work, etc. to adjust the budget.

Todd also filled out vouchers monthly for bills and they are approved and paid by the Supervisor at their monthly meetings.

He also keeps a Ledger of expenses and work to keep everything on track and Wood Tax & Accounting provides him with a monthly Financial statement for meetings.

In March, Todd would have a yearly meeting with the County Engineer to fill out the Motor Fuel Tax Budget for use of money received from the state gas tax. The money goes to the county and is disbursed by the county for paying of bills that Todd turns in. Monthly gravel and oil tickets are paid from it.

The Property Tax money from the county goes into four funds: Road & Bridge, Gravel Fund, Building/Equipment, and Half Aid Bridge Fund. Todd said the state will match that money if the County Engineer approves the need for a bridge.

The challenges, Todd said, mostly came in the winter weather and keeping the roads open. "I would go out in the wee hours of the morning to treat roads. Some times with 4 or 5 inches of snow and a constant wind I would have to go over the roads two or three times due to the drifting but I had to keep after it or I wasn't going to keep up. It felt like a loosing battle at times." The township has two snow plow trucks and a road grader, but Todd always did his own work unless it was a big big snow or extra strong wind and snow.

"It is really tough," he said "I usually had to run chains and it would be so bad, I'd have to back down roads to treat them." Todd uses a salt and sand mix he puts together and has ready. He would get a semi load of salt around October-November, mix it with sand and a few chips and put it into a storage building, ready for what ole man winter brings.

Some of the big snow storms he recalls was in 1989 with 12" plus, a terrific snow in 2000 of only 6" but the wind blew for days and drifted, and in 2007 there was a 6" storm with 30-40 mph winds, and January 5, 2014 an 8" snow and winds. "They all kept me busy and I called in extra help." When I have too much snow on the sides of the road, I bring out the grader to push it back to be ready for the next snow. Sometimes you can't see - a white out! Sometimes it was like a wedge getting through a small strip that piled up with drifting snow. We just had tunnels." Todd said he had farmers that had front wheel assist tractors with loaders that would get a trench started to help him get started with the V-plow. There were places that 200-300 feet of blocked solid snow and it would take 45 minutes to 2 hours to get through it!"

Todd has enjoyed other accomplishments. For 27 years he has served as secretary of West Central Illinois Hwy Commissioners Association covering 17 counties with meetings three times a year at the McDonough County Highway Dept. in Macomb. We put on a two-day seminar for Road Commissioners in June. One day is education and the second day is at Argyle State Park with vendors pertaining to work with displays and demonstrations where over 100-120 attend.

Todd also formed their own road oiling group starting with 4 townships (La Harpe, Durham, Ft. Green, and Hancock) and now eight townships are in the group (Pilot Grove, Rock Creek, Harmony and Bear Creek).

He explained, "Where we use to hire out the work of taring and chipping roads, we went together and purchased a used distributor and used chipper which allows us to oil and chip are own township roads at a cost savings rather than hire the work out like in the past."

Todd learned to run the distributor and last year he trained the Rock Creek Road Commissioner to run the new distributor they had purchased two years ago who has already taken on the work this year and did a fine job - Eric Martin. "There was a lot of heavy lifting in that job that influenced me to hand the job over to the next generation."

Todd and Eric both have their Hazard Material Endorsement which is needed to operator the oil truck and distributor.

Todd said, "I have loved it and have had excellent township boards and supervisors and part-time help. They have been wonderful people to work for."

Todd said they tried to abolish townships-what a mistake! It is one of the most efficient forms of governments in the U.S. La Harpe Twp. has 48 miles of roads to care for, some have over 60 miles.