WORTHINGTON — Six weeks into his new role as Nobles County’s drainage systems coordinator, Zach Reker is grateful for the unseasonable weather that has kept him outdoors rather than at his desk most days.
The mild temperatures have made it possible for the county to continue to work on ditch projects — including the replacement of 1,000 feet of 10-inch tile on Judicial Ditch 12 in Bloom Township, cleaning out 2.5-foot-deep sediment from a 2,000-foot stretch of the open Judicial Ditch 8 in Elk Township and completing a clean-out of County Ditch 4 near the Herlein-Boote Slough in Worthington Township.
All of those projects should be completed by the end of this week, said Reker, whose job it is to take landowner calls about poor drainage in the county’s system, schedule county employees or contractors to make repairs and oversee the ongoing process to redetermine benefits on 36 county and judicial ditches, including 12 joint ditch systems with neighboring counties.
Reker, who grew up on the family farm near Adrian and started working in the family’s tiling business at age 12, hopes to bring his tiling knowledge to the position, as well as help streamline the county’s tile lines and ditch systems and bring them up to date.
It’s a major task, considering the county tile systems are over — or nearing — 100 years old.
“Tile has always interested me,” said Reker, who continues to help with the family’s tiling business while also owning a Red Angus cow-calf operation and grain farming with his dad and two brothers.
Prior to being hired as the ditch systems coordinator, Reker spent more than five years in the county’s public works department. Based at the Adrian shop, his duties then included plowing snow and fixing tile. He spent nearly three years before that working in the maintenance department in Minnehaha County, South Dakota.
Reker majored in criminal justice and behavioral science at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota, where he played collegiate football for four years. He and his wife, Shelby, are expecting their first child in April.
Helping Reker make the transition to the new role in the county has been Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder and Auditor-Treasurer Joyce Jacobs. Highway Maintenance Supervisor Cliff Altman (Reker’s supervisor) and Maintenance Crew Chief Steve Schultz have been a big help, too, he added.
“It’s been fun learning the process and meeting the contractors,” Reker said. “We’ve been able to catch up immensely with the tile repairs (because of the weather).”
In addition to tile repairs, Reker will aid in the process of redetermination of benefits on the county’s ditch systems. There are 29 systems currently going through the process.
“I’m hoping once that gets done, my job gets a lot easier,” Reker added.
A redetermination of benefits has been completed on JD 9 and JD 13, and the improvements have been approved, pending the appeals process. People may appeal the improvements during the 30-day process, which began last week.
Reker said once the redetermination of benefits are approved on each of the systems, there will be more money available to do future maintenance and improvements.
H2Over Viewers are doing the redeterminations on approximately two-thirds of the county’s ditch systems, with Ron Ringquist’s team doing the remaining one-third.
Reker can be reached for any drainage-related issues at 295-5322 or via email at email@example.com.