For nearly two years, Bargersville resident Mike Robards has looked out his front door and seen a torn-up yard along Whiteland Road.
When the road in front of his home was expanded in 2012 and medians were added between the east- and westbound lanes, the Johnson County Highway Department made sure Whiteland Road residents knew that the right-of-way land in front of their homes would be used.
The county has an easement with Whiteland Road property owners that allows the county to maintain the road and have access to the property within 75 feet from the center of the road. Any right-of-way grass that was torn up during construction would be replaced once the medians were installed, construction workers said. The rights-of-way would be brought back to their existing conditions with planted grass and refilled topsoil.
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But residents still are looking at torn-up yards almost two years later. Robards can fish out 6-inch-wide rocks from the right-of-way in his yard, where little grass has grown. The soil is uneven and subsides after it rains. The silt trenches remain unfilled.
“My yard is junk, basically,” Robards said.
The highway department is aware of the situation, Johnson County Highway Director Luke Mastin said. This spring, construction crews put more grass seed on the lawns.
“The lawns were aerated and seeded at the same time the median was, but unfortunately we have not seen much new grass growth,” Mastin said. “We have been looking at potential solutions in the median, including fertilizing and weed spraying, and these roadside right-of-way areas will be included when the median work is done.”
Robards and his next-door neighbor, Duane Sjoquist, have emailed and called the highway department and the construction company to get the issue resolved. Since the project ended in 2013, they have contacted the county about every two or three months, they said.
“I was hopeful that they were going to restore the yards back to the way they were before they started,” Sjoquist said.
Sjoquist had another issue. His yard had piles of topsoil 4 to 5 feet high dumped for weeks at a time. For more than three weeks, he had the soil sitting in his lawn, even though the county highway department had finished construction in front of his yard.
Finally, Sjoquist said, he called the highway department and told them to move the dirt or else he would bill them for a lawn service company to come and get rid of the topsoil. A few days later, a construction crew removed the piles of topsoil.
One month ago, Robards called the construction project manager and asked for someone to stop by the house, so they could see the issues firsthand. Robards is still awaiting a visit.
“During all of the construction, we didn’t complain,” Robards said. “But we’ve been dealing with this ever since.”
Robards and Sjoquist are lamenting with other Whiteland Road residents who have complained about the upkeep of the medians. Residents had complained about the overgrown grass and tall weeds that never seem to get cut by the highway department, they said.
County highway department workers are considering ways to improve the appearance of the medians, which could include planting wildflowers. But at this point, the department is focused on planting grass to make it plush in the medians before adding flowers, Mastin said.