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Fixing all the county highways

Engineer reveals 5-year plan to redo bad roads

February 10, 2017
Cody Benjamin - Register Staff Writer ( , Faribault County Register

By 2021, the Faribault County Board of Commissioners wants the percentage of paved county miles in "good" condition to have doubled.

And they approved county engineer Mark Daly's plan to make that happen Tuesday, signing off on a projected five-year forecast that includes an estimated $22.15 million in construction costs.

"Of the existing 290 paved miles in the county," Daly explained to the board, "about 27 percent of them would be classified as 'good.'"

With the projects proposed for 2017 and beyond in the five-year plan, though, Daly said the goal is to boost that number to 54 percent. Such a rehabilitation would, in essence, reduce "fair" or "poor" county road conditions to the point that they would only apply to about half of the area's 290 miles.

"We all know we're going to have to live with some poor roads," Daly said. "There are going to be a lot of complaints until we get on top of it. We're just trying to get the ridability the ride back into these roads."

That starts with the five-year plan, according to Daly, and the projected work was outlined with state aid and local wheelage tax revenue in mind as primary sources of funding.

Twelve different projects, three of which are for bridges rather than roads, are lined up for 2017. Among them are a $2-million overlay of more than six miles stretching from Highway 169 to County State-Aid Highway 15 and a $720,000 precasting of beams for a Blue Earth City Township bridge.

The biggest project on the docket is set at an estimated cost of at least $3 million, which would go toward eight miles worth of work between highways 169 and 254 in 2018. But each year's projections remain flexible, Daly reminded the board, just like the possibility of additional microsurfacing projects for County Road 2 and other areas.

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz motioned to approve Daly's plans as projected, and a unanimous vote sealed support from the board, which had discussed five-year construction concepts at a separate work session with Daly before the start of the new year.

Before also signing off on a request by Daly to attend a National Association of County Engineers conference in Cincinnati, the board dove into discussions regarding an unrelated inquiry from commissioner Tom Loveall one centered on the board's involvement with county labor issues.

"I'm just curious," he said, "Can or should the board be briefed on employment investigations?"

Loveall did not specify whether or not a current county investigation was the subject of his question. But he did spark a response from fellow commissioners, county attorney Troy Timmerman and Central Services director Dawn Fellows, who replaced absent auditor John Thompson at Tuesday's meeting.

"If you're talking about allegations against an employee, typically you'd have a closed meeting," Timmerman said, admitting that he had not fully researched the legality of such an issue. "But the employee can choose to have that meeting be open."

Commissioner Greg Young said that, from past experience, he was familiar with that kind of process, even if he "always felt a little left out" because of it.

Commissioner Tom Warmka agreed, acknowledging Loveall's curiosity but suggesting that any internal investigations or allegations against a county employee should not be shared without caution.

"The less you know, the less you can leak," he said. "This is very sensitive stuff, so you've got to let the correct people handle it."

Fellows confirmed that, typically, the board would not be involved in investigation discussions until "final discipline" or a "final disposition" is determined.

In terms of other employment updates around the county, Fellows also announced three hires for board approval, including the addition of an office manager and accountant in the Public Works department and two part-time jail dispatchers.

At Tuesday's meeting, the County Board also:

Scheduled a preliminary hearing regarding improvements at County Ditch 24 for 9 a.m. on March 1 at the Faribault County Law Enforcement Center.

Backlash to repair and construction projects at the Winnebago City Township ditch previously sparked debate at a November board meeting, at which Warmka suggested deploying "sheriff protection" to the ditch site to prevent retaliatory vandalism.

Heard a report from Groskreutz on Blue Earth's Minnesota Valley Action Council office, which the commissioner said intends to add an additional Head Start classroom for next fall.

"The plan is to remodel and add a classroom, hopefully this winter," he said, "and then have full-day classes by next September."

Approved Loveall's nominations of Brad Wolf and Lola Baxter to the county economic development authority (EDA) and Planning and Zoning Commission, respectively.



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