Commissioner Ron Hauptman expects a magnetic sweeper attached to road graders to mean fewer flat tires for Otoe County drivers.
The roads department made a bracket to fit behind graders to hold a powerful magnetic bar about four inches from the road surface.
The grader operator blades the road with normal techniques and at normal speeds while the bar picks up metal objects, such as wires and nails.
“It was amazing the weight of the stuff it picks up. We've had railroad spikes, a metal file and brake shoes from a car. You name it,” Hauptman said.
The first district commissioner bought the first magnetic sweeper for $500 to test how it would perform.
He said he had received several complaints from drivers who linked flat tires to their use of the county roads.
Hauptman said he decided to seek a solution and heard about the magnetic sweepers last September from road managers in Lancaster County.
To maintain a rock road, grader operators typically make a pass on the edge of the road blading the rock toward the center. They then blade the center ridge to spread the rock evenly over the driving surface.
Grader Operator Wally Pohlman said he was surprised at how much metal was collected.
He said the magnet picks up the most on the final pass after the rock has been bladed to the center.
Grading roads from Highway 75 west to Otoe, Pohlman collected a five-gallon bucket weighing 75 pounds.
In addition to nails and wire, the magnetic sweeper picked up the remaining shards of a disc.
Hauptman said the plates of jagged metal are dangerous.
“It would ruin a tire and could cause real trouble for anyone driving. I think people should know we are trying to do something about it,” he said.
He reported the results of the sweeper to the county board earlier this month and commissioners ordered two more magnetic sweepers.
“When we saw what the first one did, we knew we had to get more magnetics because of the size of the territory. We can't get it all, but we can make a dent in the amount of metal found on the roads,” he said.
Hauptman said it would be too expensive to equip each of the 12 graders operating in the county, so the equipment will be shared.
The first pass through Hauptman's district collected 100 pounds of metal. Square-headed nails suggested that some of it had been on the roads for a long time and, when Pohlman made the second pass, there was significantly less.
Hauptman said it means that graders can share the magnetic sweeper so that all roads are serviced once or twice, rather than sweeping each time the grader is out.
Page 2 of 2 - Pohlman, who has worked with the roads department since 1980, said he was surprised at how much metal the bar picked up.