New O’Brien County engineer fills need

Scott Rinehart’s first official day as the new O’Brien County engineer was on March 18. His office is located on the first floor of the county courthouse in Primghar.

PRIMGHAR—Scott Rinehart has engineered a return to the workforce instead of retiring.

The rural Sioux Rapids man’s first official day as the new O’Brien County engineer was on March 18.

“It seems like a nice situation,” Rinehart said. “I do like the challenges of building bridges and maintaining bridges and keeping the traffic going.”

He previously served from 2002-17 as the Clay County engineer based in Spencer, so the 61-year-old has enjoyed returning to a similar role while also helping O’Brien County fill a need.

“I was really thinking about retiring,” Rinehart said. “They were having a hard time finding an engineer here. It just worked out.”

O’Brien County had been looking for an engineer since July 25, when Tom Snyder of Sanborn retired from the role after having served in the position since July 30, 2012.

Starting on Aug. 1, Sioux County engineer Doug Julius served as the interim O’Brien County engineer until Rinehart took over the role.

Rinehart has been busy since he took over the full-time county engineer position based at the courthouse in Primghar.

“It’s been a pretty tough spring,” Rinehart said. “We’re just trying to get a lot of gravel hauled and trying to get the gravel roads bladed down.

“Trying to keep everybody getting to where they want to go is a full-time job right now, especially if the weather doesn’t give us a break,” he said.

As the O’Brien County engineer, Rinehart is responsible and accountable for the overall planning, direction, coordination and control of the county secondary roads department.

That includes the effective, efficient and safe construction, maintenance and engineering of all county roads and related services, such as bridgework done by the county’s bridge crew, a function that is unique for smaller counties.

His office has 24 employees; oversees road maintenance shops in Archer, Hartley, Paullina, Primghar and Sutherland; and maintains 1,014 miles of county roads — paved, gravel and dirt — and 240 bridges.

“It’s a stable crew,” Rinehart said. “We’ve got excellent people that do what needs to be done. There’s not a big personnel challenge here at all.”

He noted his office has not received many complaints from people about the county’s roads and bridges since he started on the job.

“It seems to me that O’Brien County citizens are very calm,” Rinehart said. “For as bad as the roads have been, we have not had many complaints. They’re just kind of living with it and understanding the situation.”

Rinehart, a rural Everly na­­tive, explained what he has enjoyed most about his engineering career, which dates back to 1991.

“I like to be out and about,” Rinehart said, noting that he grew up spending time outside on a cattle farm.

“I wanted to be an engineer, but I didn’t want to be penned up in a cubicle somewhere doing design work all the time. I like building things and I like to be a part of that.”