Following an emergency burn ban ordinance issued by the Putnam County Commissioners last Wednesday, a more lasting ordinance was approved on Monday morning.
As an emergency measure, last week's declaration only had to be approved by Commissioner President Kristina Alexander (formerly Warren) and was only good for seven days.
With approval at a public meeting by all three commissioners, Monday's declaration remains in place until rescinded by a majority of the commissioners.
The permanence of the ban is the only difference from the emergency declaration, as the majority of the wording remains the same. As before, the ordinance reads in part:
Effective immediately the following activities are prohibited in Putnam County:
1. Campfires and other recreational fires, unless enclosed in a fire ring with dimensions of 23 inches in diameter by 10 inches high or larger;
2. Open burning of any kind using conventional fuel such as wood, or other combustible matter, with the exception of grills fueled by charcoal briquettes or propane;
3. The burning of debris, such as timber or vegetation, including such debris that results from building construction activities.
The decree further states that burning in burn barrels with 1/4-inch mesh tops is permitted from dawn to dusk.
Violation of the ordinance is a Class B misdemeanor.
Fireworks are still not prohibited in the ordinance, although residents are encouraged to refrain from the use of aerial fireworks and instead attend public displays.
Several local towns have adopted ordinances with nearly the same wording as the county ordinance, which applies only to unincorporated areas.
Fire hazards were only one of the problems caused by dry weather discussed at Monday's meeting. The issue of dust from gravel roads came up on two occasions.
Gene Milner, a resident of County Road 25 East in northern Greencastle Township, submitted a proposal to the board to have the one-mile section of the road north of the Houck Iron Bridge paved.
Milner said this section is the only unpaved road in the area. He further pointed out the road is likely to see a large increase in traffic in the next couple of years.
The first boost will be when the Houck Bridge project is complete, thus reopening the road to through traffic.
Another bridge project is likely to increase the traffic further. The county will be replacing Crow's Bridge on County Road 175 East beginning in 2013.
During the replacement, Milner reasoned, Houck Bridge will see increased traffic as the only nearby crossing of Big Walnut Creek. He pointed out that the county chipped and sealed County Road 175 East several years ago because of high traffic.
Commissioners agreed with Milner that during the 12- to 18-month bridge project, this traffic is likely to go to County Road 25 East.
While no formal agreement to pave the road was made, the commissioners and County Highway personnel discussed adding the project to the 2013 county highway budget.
Dust control has also been an issue near some of the county's covered bridges. The Putnam County Convention and Visitor's Bureau has stepped to the plate in helping to address the issue.
The dust on county roads acts as a deterrent to some who would otherwise visit the covered bridges -- particularly groups of motorcycle or classic car enthusiasts who often visit such landmarks.
The Visitor's Bureau has proposed to pay up to $12,000 to help with the application of oil for dust control to these roads. This would cover approximately half of the cost for applying the oil from paved roads to the bridges.
The commissioners accepted the plan, appreciative of road help from any source.
The affected bridges include Cornstalk Covered Bridge, Pine Bluff Covered Bridge, Rolling Stone Covered Bridge and Oakalla Covered Bridge.
The work will be done on three of the roads this year. Oil will be applied from U.S. 231 to Cornstalk on County Road 1350 North. Both approaches to Pine Bluff will be treated, a stretch of 950 North running from 250 East to 575 East.
One approach to Rolling Stone is already paved, but the stretch of 800 North from the bridge to 500 East will now have the oil applied.
The approach to Oakalla will not be treated until 2013.
The Visitor's Bureau is also thinking of adding a line item to its budget through which money could be applied to covered bridge maintenance.