Postcard From the Rockies 2
every year - the county commissioners adopt a budget and for we county surveyors, the question that rules their decision is: "taxpayer funding for the county surveyor is, or is not, a complete waste of money"(and, will I get re-elected when I am accused of wasting tax money?)
I was paid a generous salary for some of my years, including about 15 years ago. Colorado, like all western states, suffered a pine beetle epidemic, and all of our mature pine trees - roughly 20 feet and taller, died, turned red, and were either cut down and hauled off, or rotted to the point of falling down on their own, laying waste to the forest floors. Our county attorney saw a liability problem with the thousands of standing dead trees within our county rights of way - and the county embarked on a vast tree removal project. A logging company won the bid, consisting of a foreman/walker, and the equipment guy running the hydraulic machine that snipped the trees off at the trunk, grabbed them, and put them in piles for the trucks to take away. our large, but little populated county has 850 miles of county roads, mostly through forest. I, a one man crew with GPS and robotic of the time (set up base, RTK), was given numerous GIS maps highlighted in phases of where the right of way needed to be staked for tree cutting. I recall staking hundreds of lots in three summers and one winter. I think I purchased 50 bundles of pointed lath, most of which I got to reuse at least once marked "R.O.W.". The tree cutters had to be able to line stake to stake. cutting a tree on private property was a big legal problem. people could get fired for cutting a tree on private property, and the county could be sued. several people got their ass royally chewed in public meetings for making any multitude of errors in this project. I am not the world's best surveyor, and have made far more errors than I wish, but what I am pretty good at as being the one human on earth who knows the most about our rights of ways through experience as a surveyor and witness in several lawsuits testifying for my county. this acquired knowledge was vital - I am positive that the best of crews could not keep up with me without learning just about everything regarding rights of ways the hard way. I would mark out some lots easily because I knew where the pins were - and I also knew the history of how the right of way got there. If I didnt know where the pins were, know how the road was built helpped save a LOT of time because really my GPS didn't work in the trees. The tree cutting crew only made money by speed - if I slowed them down, they would back charge the county and of course that wouldn't make me look too good and my commissioners truly enjoyed telling me how much of a waste of money I was in public meetings. While doing this work, I met landowner after landowner on site - they all threatened me with bodily harm if I cut down THEIR trees. many, hundreds, of my stakes were pulled out by angry landowners - the madder they were, the farther they flied. Quite a few landowners lied to me outright, telling me they were sure their boundary was over here "because I had it surveyed" (of course they never had, so I always had to have good calculations and be able to defend my stakes). The worst problem I had was the tree cutters. I would only set stakes where the trees were. I skipped the open sage areas - gained ground and time. they objected and insisted I set every "property corner". when I didn't - because they didn't need it - they would have screaming matches, god that really pissed them off that I did set stakes even though there were no trees. they also second guess my stakes: (could you check these stakes- they sure don't look right!) they stated often, when they know not what they were talking about. they started cutting trees that I had not marked because they decided that my stakes were wrong. One property corner - thanks to my experience - fell at the base of a beautiful tree on private land, and there was a 5 foot witness corner pin easily visible, I of course set my stake on the other side of the tree so that it would NOT be cut - the next day mr. surveyor - logger told me that he didn't understand why I would set the stake where I did - they could see the "property corner" how stupid am I, anyway? I told him that was a "witness corner" and the tree is on private land. He turned ghostly white, called his Mr Hydraulics on the radio - and stopped that tree from going down by about 20 seconds. the contract time period was running out so we all had to work through the last winter - in January it averages about 20 below - and I was out there scrambling up to the top of 1:1 cut banks and peeling off frozen flagging all day - when I really would have prefered doing office work - and unfortunaltely, I was falling behind and my slowness was very nearly going to be an issue - when Mr Hydraulics was unable to start his machine because it was too cold, for about three days SAVED that time is all I needed to get back ahead, and stay ahead. I was paid a salary consisting of 1/8 per hour of what privateers were charging (of which I truly appreciated). I am positive that bidding out this work would have been too slow - and 10 times the cost to do what I did. It was a fantastic job for me - I got to use all my skills at their utmost peak performance, and all outside dealing with extremes of weather - and politics. everything I did turned out to right and on time - and there is no successful 3 year project without a similar survey being done. next fall - the county commissioners had to approve my next budget - and asked themselves the question: "is the county surveyor a waste of money, or not?"
The tree cutters had to be able to line stake to stake. cutting a tree on private property was a big legal problem. people could get fired for cutting a tree on private property, and the county could be sued.
I would have guessed the landowners moving the stakes inside their property to remove some dead pines for free. cool story