More than 100 people crowded inside the Douglass Community Center to observe a special meeting of the Douglass Township committee.
The controversial meeting featured colorful language, raised voices and more than a dozen rounds of applause.
According to a letter to township residents, Jean Branch and a couple of other residents of Adams Road just west of Douglass have taken part in 16 months of “threats and harassment” and Trustee Craig McClure “felt it was time to answer any questions and concerns” from residents of the township.
As he called the meeting to order, McClure reported that Branch has recorded the content of the township committee’s meetings for more than a year.
“Jean Branch is taping this meeting,” McClure told the crowd. “I don’t know why. I guess she thinks the Douglass Township is doing something wrong.”
Because of the controversial nature of the meeting and the large number of people who were expected to attend, Sheriff Kelly Herzet attended the meeting to insure that the proceedings were conducted peacefully.
County Commissioner Dan Woydziak was also on hand to clarify some points and provide information to his constituents.
The question raised by Branch, a few other Adams Road residents and trustee candidate Michael Beck, concerns the dust created by truck traffic to and from McClure Brothers Farms which travel down Adams Rd. from 210th St.
A letter from the attorney for Ms. Branch and her husband accused the farm of creating “air and noise pollution.”
The letter from Wichita attorney James McIntyre claimed the authorization to bring suit to abate heavy truck traffic on this road.
McClure Brothers Farm has been in operation in this location since 1985.
The neighbors want the road paved to prevent dust or for the farm to stop operations in the area.
“If you pave Adams Road, I want my road paved too,” said township resident Rick Morris. “It just isn’t feasible to pave a township road. If you choose to live on a rural road, you will have dust. I appreciate the McClure Brothers doing business in Douglass and the amount of taxes they pay.”
The crowd applauded for the first of many times during the meeting after Morris’ comment.
The figure used at the meeting was that paving a surface like Adams Road would cost around $1 million per mile before any curb and gutter work was done.
Adams Road is about 1.5 miles long.
McClure told the crowd the township had spent $17,000 this year to install millings on the road to keep the dust down and the road in good shape.
But that didn’t appear to be enough for the neighbors or his opponent.
McClure asked Beck if he had anything to add and Beck responded, “I have not been invited to speak.”
Page 2 of 2 - McClure told him the meeting was an open forum and asked again if he had anything to say. Beck answered, “Not at this time.”
McClure read from a letter Beck sent to township residents and asked Beck to clarify comments in which he mentioned “unsettling trends in the operation of the township.”
“Your budget sir,” Beck answered.
According to Beck’s letter, the township’s budget is up 367 percent since the year 2000.
McClure lost his temper when Beck repeated that claim.
“Do you know where that money came from?” McClure asked. “It was FEMA money. You don’t even understand the (expletive) budget.”
Commissioner Woydziak told the crowd that Douglass’s valuations were about $13.1 million four years ago and $13.2 million this year. The mill rate paid by the township residents has actually decreased by two mills in the past three years.
McClure had as many friends as family members in the audience. Several audience members received applause after telling the crowd that the condition of the roads and cemetery were as good as they have been in generations.
Ms. Branch claimed that truck traffic on Adams Road included a truck every several minutes during peak times.
One audience member who was not identified said that was true on every rural road in Douglass during harvest season.
Branch then pointed that according to public records she has requested, the township did not use a bid process to allocate the FEMA funds and McClure family members had done some of the work approved by the agency.
“That may be,” McClure said. “But I was allowed to collect up to three percent of that money and I didn’t collect one (expletive) dime. I never claimed any mileage or asked for any money. I did all of that for free.”
The primary between McClure and Beck will be decided August 7. Early voting is already available at the Butler County Courthouse in El Dorado.