MnDOT representative updates County Board on upcoming state road projects

By : 
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY
Bluff Country Newspaper Group

The Fillmore County commissioners entertained visitors during the Tuesday, June 26, board meeting as Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) District 6 Planner Ronda Allis shared the Fillmore County 10-year construction plan as related to projects that will and may take place on state roads running with and intersecting county roads.

She opened by explaining the pavement scoring system that MnDOT uses to determine which roadways need repair, citing that currently, the department does not have plans to expand the highway system but does have a schedule of roads that are either set to be fixed or are listed, but not funded.

She stated projects listed for 2019 through 2022 are funded and will be done, but projects that were identified for 2023 through 2028 are not funded and therefore not guaranteed.

“The majority of our projects are maintenance…mill and overlay,” Allis stated. “By Nov. 1, 2018, we have to have a plan in place for better transparency in showing how we identify projects. The first years’ projects are in progress, funded and moving forward. In 2019, there’s an urban project from I-90 to Tracy Road in Spring Valley that’s mill and overlay, and it will require a detour during culvert replacement, but the rest will be done under traffic. There’s a rural segment of Highway 30 from Stewartville to Rushford’s west city limits that was originally set for 2022, but it’s being expedited. There will be a March 2019 levy, and the project will require a two- to four-week detour, but the urban part would still be done in 2022. Highway 43 near Rushford is a planned project, but there’s no funding yet.”

Commissioner Randy Dahl asked Allis whether a sharp curve that has contributed to several crashes could be re-platted during work on Highway 43, and Allis replied that it isn’t likely if the project is just a mill and overlay – or resurfacing – project. She also answered his question about how MnDOT decides what intersections or curves to reconstruct to mitigate crashes, saying that the department uses state patrol statistics.

Allis went on to highlight that there are plans to mill and overlay Highway 80 from Highway 16 outside of Wykoff; that in 2024, work may be done from Highway 52 to County 5 in Chatfield; in 2025, work should take place on Highway 16 to Tracy Road to East Griswold; from Highway 30 near Stewartville to Chatfield; and in 2027 on Highway 74 in Chatfield – including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance improvements.

Allis urged the commissioners, “What’s more important to me is what’s missing – if you see anything that’s glaringly missing, please let me know.”

 Commissioner Duane Bakke questioned whether shoulders on a segment of Highway 52 would be paved, and Allis informed him that it would depend on whether those shoulders are already paved, though MnDOT is taking into account bicyclists’ safety in paving highway shoulders.

Board Chairman Mitch Lentz wanted to know about shoulders being paved or widened for Amish buggies, as Fillmore County’s Amish population needs a safe place to travel. Allis replied that MnDOT is kicking off a statewide effort to widen highway shoulders because analyses have revealed there are other parts of the state that need to give the Amish community higher priority to prevent accidents.

Also, Allis pointed out that MnDOT is in the process of reviewing jurisdictional alignment, or the necessity of it retaining oversight of specific roadways or turning them over to the county and municipalities to maintain.

County Highway Engineer Ron Gregg registered concerns on behalf of citizens who have been worried about lighting at the intersection of Highway 63 and County Road 44 south of Spring Valley, just before the Iowa border. Allis stated that MnDOT could pay for installation of lighting but the county would then be responsible for operation and maintenance of the lighting.

Other highway issues

Following Allis’s presentation, Gregg shared the awarding of the Carrolton Township grading and bituminous paving bid for Heron Road – with the intention of using local road improvement program (LRIP) funds – to low bidder Swenke IMS Construction, for $463,049.15.

Next, he asked for the Carrolton Township Goodview Drive paving bid – also using LRIP money – to be awarded to Rochester Sand & Gravel for $538,568.50, and lastly, the culvert replacement bid on County Road 105 was given to Minnowa Construction for $33,456.27, with local option sales tax (LOST) to be used to pay for that project.

Bakke’s highway committee report included a note that paving work on County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 1 will begin soon and should be done by the end of the contract in mid-September, offering relief for those who travel the road and for the county to concentrate on other roads in the next years.

Bakke added that the total flood mitigation amount for which the county is responsible for recovery after the June 9 downpour that washed out roads is $69,000.

He also said a conversation is ongoing as to how to proceed with replacing the Chatfield highway shop – the state also uses the building to store its vehicles and machinery.

Legal update

 County attorney Brett Corson and Zoning Administrator Cristal Adkins came before the board to review existing court cases and to update the commissioners on the county’s land transfer policy.

Corson related that the county continues with litigation regarding Amish wastewater systems that do not meet the county’s or Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) standards. He told the board, “Currently, we have litigation with four Amish cases, and it goes to trial in court in November. Friday, we were in court with the MPCA, our silent partner, and they’ve not been a lot of help.”

He pointed out that the county contacted the MPCA as a means of pursuing the cases because of the potential environmental impact Amish wastewater practices may have on the county’s water supply.

“For the most part, the households have incoming water pipes…we thought it was ‘carry in and carry out,’ but it’s not,” Corson said. “We want to see where and how it’s coming into houses and barns, to look at drains and outhouses because the more water coming into houses and barns, the more wastewater is going out. We brought up outhouses to the judge, and the Amish want to use mulch or peat moss systems because they’ve been using five-gallon buckets in their outhouses. We may have to rethink our ordinances…if there are households of 10 to 15 people.”

Corson concluded by telling the commissioners that two cases have been completed and that litigation will proceed over the next months.

Adkins commented, “I think there have been a lot of things that we’ve discovered that we didn’t know, things that we’ve achieved on assumptions that they carry water in and carry it out.”

Sheriff’s department

Sheriff Tom Kaase reviewed the 2018 jail inspection for the commissioners, citing that a few items had been noted in the inspector’s report. One item was a directive that inmate well-being checks should be conducted up close to assure jailers that they are still breathing if not visibly active – a difference of method compared to what is preferred as to what is always possible. Another issue was the jail facility’s condition, a persistent question the board has dealt with because of funding shortages and declining population.

Kaase then requested that emergency manager Don Kullot be allowed to attend an emergency management class in Wisconsin to educate himself on his role as emergency manager, and the board voted in favor.

Other business

County Recorder David Kiehne presented a request to upgrade the county’s contract with Pictometry, the company that was hired a few years ago to take aerial photos of property parcels. The commissioners agreed that the upgrade would be beneficial to tracking properties within the county’s borders.

Social Services Manager Kevin Olson asked to be allowed to renew a telecommuting agreement that applies to Deb Ristau, Jennifer Peterson and Kari Cahill, and the board concurred with his request.

Additionally, Fillmore County Ag Society representative Doug Lind spoke about the appropriations that the ag society handles and outlined the projects that the society plans to carry out in the coming year.

Human Resources Officer Kristina Kohn brought forward second readings of several policies, including the AED, code of ethics, tobacco-free workplace, fleet vehicles, grievances and mileage and travel policies. Additionally, she presented a retirement request from employee Kenneth Rislov to be effective no later than Oct. 31, 2018, and another request to hire a full-time account technician in the sheriff’s office effective June 29.

The county approved renewal of the hauler agreement with Winneshiek County Area Solid Waste Agency.

A discussion was held regarding the staffing in the coordinator’s, zoning and Extension offices. It was noted that staffing is being shuffled to accommodate the impending retirement of office support specialist Cindy Mensink on July 26. Also, there will be some cross-training slated for the coming month to allow those taking over her duties to be able to handle the work she’s done in various departments.

The consent agenda included approving a temporary on-sale liquor license for the Preston Servicemen’s Club to serve at Chuck O’Connor’s party barn in Harmony on July 27, and the reappointment of county surveyor Jeff Brand for a term beginning June 26 and lasting through June 25, 2022.