5/23/2013 3:50:00 PM Shifting of road funds sends one
commissioner into fit
by DENISE MARTIN
A last minute revision to the county’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) was added to the county commissioners’ meeting agenda last week and things got a little ugly. The county commissioner objecting to the action was nearly ejected from the meeting after warnings by the Chair to quit being disruptive. The agenda was being amended to deal with a deteriorated section of County Road 16, in Shafer Township that requires immediate attention, according to Commissioner Rick Greene. Greene made a motion to amend the agenda to allow for transferring some TIP monies from a project planned this summer to reconstruct County Road 8 near Goose Lake.
Greene argued that this is a special situation because his road is the only paved north-south route in that region of Greene’s district. Highway #95 is being periodically closed for state projects this summer, so it is critical to fix #16. Transferring the dedicated $700,000 will ensure there’s enough money for #16. Putting the item on the agenda passed 4-1-- but not until after a display of indignation from County Commissioner Mike Robinson, who doggedly opposed even revising the agenda. He was ordered to only speak when recognized several times, and only when he had something new to say.
Robinson grew more agitated when the motion was later made by Greene to transfer dedicated 2013 TIP funding from County Road 8, to fund repair to Cty. Rd. 16. He was told by Chair Ben Montzka “...when you’re gavelled you stop talking, otherwise you’ll be removed.” Robinson ignored the warnings, saying “...everybody has heard that County Road 8 was going to be eliminated” from the 2013 list. He added that it appears that a majority of commissioners have already discussed this in violation of open meeting laws. The action is politically motivated, Robinson continued, and designed just to hurt him. A woman seated in the audience was yelling at the county board as well, and control of the meeting disintegrated.
The sheriff was called into the room and stood-by as Board Chair Montzka chastized Robinson for “personal attacks” and called a brief recess to diffuse the situation. When order was restored Greene’s motion to amend the TIP list for 2013 was still on the floor. Commissioner Robinson motioned to reword the motion to allow the county engineer to decide what the priority project is, and there was no second, so it died. Commissioner Lora Walker remarked that the whole episode was “unprofessional.” She noted that many actions have been taken by the Board to revise budgets in departments when an urgent situation arises, especially dealing with mid-budget year state aid cuts. She took offense at the “political tone” of Robinson’s tirade and remarked, “I am only surprised it’s (budget revisions) taken so long to hit Road & Bridge.”
Then, the vote was called and the funding shift was approved, 3-2 with Robinson and Walker the no votes. County Engineer Joe Triplett was contacted the following day, and he mentioned that decisions like this are only going to get tougher with funding for infrastructure at insufficient levels. (See chart.) He said now he will “shift gears” and try to package a #16 project and line up a contractor as quickly as possible. Of concern is road work that’s being done by the state, in Greene’s district, which has resulted in #16 as a detour and even affects the availability of contractors. Commissioner Robinson’s District 5 is getting a new bridge on County Road #8 near Goose Lake. The bridge in Fish Lake Twsp. is a timber frame built in 1959. The Board voted unanimously May 15 to award that bid to Redstone. The funding formula now calls for state bridge bonding paying for $300,000, leaving the county to use $550,000 of its state aid monies to do this bridge.
~ The crack seal bid for Trunk Highways 18, 22, 32 and 27 and Trunk Highways 10 and 23 (Hwy 8 to 24)was awarded to Wisconsin-based Fahrner Asphalt for $53,940. There was also a brief discussion about the State Highway 95 and Cty. Rd. 9 intersection; where serious accidents take place on average once a year, Triplett reported. Triplett told the Board there’s a study due out in about a month, that looks at LED stop signs and their efficacy in locations like this intersection. It’ll be useful in addressing this spot with state officials. Triplett is also meeting with Adam Josephson, MnDOT regional coordinator, and will bring recommendations for this state highway intersection to a future County Board meeting.