2/13/2014 2:00:00 PM County Board
by DENISE MARTIN
There’s been some breathing room interjected into the somewhat heated process of turning over county roads to local jurisdiction. Last week the County Board was reviewing its turnback public hearings schedule, and County Administrator Bruce Messelt said state laws do not have a firm spring deadline for turnbacks, as was previously thought. Legal language refers to number of months the roads have to be off the county system in order to be included in the formula for local road aid. This means, the County Board can delay turnback decisions until May. County officials had been progressing under the impression that ownership of roadways had to be decided by March.
The County Board tentatively agreed to a new action deadline to be their meeting of May 21. The process of turning over what have been “county roads” to townships and cities is frequently a controversial issue, but it’s been done in the past, noted Commissioner Ben Montzka. The effort is a periodic necessity, that better aligns transportation systems, he said. The Board looked over a letter from the mayor of Harris, who is expected to be on the February 19 County Board agenda. Mayor Diane Miller reiterated the city’s opposition to accepting a segment of #61, and turnback of #59 and #58. She wrote, Harris is being asked to “bear an immense financial burden” with the proposed six miles of county roadway coming onto the municipal system.
Residents are concerned about the road surface and culverts being in poor shape (story in Jan. 8 Press.) A consultant identified turnback roads based on where they connect to and from, if they are functioning as major arteries or “local roads” and numbers of vehicles they carry (average daily traffic.) Miller did not accept the conclusions for the Harris area roads, stating in her letter that Harris is “centralized” and gets a lot of through traffic. County Administrator Messelt explained that pushing the turnback process out actually helps arrive at a more desireable transition point.
It is preferable to be shifting responsibility for road maintenance and repair in May compared to March when there could be imminent snowplowing and weather-emergency issues being encountered. New turnback public hearings were set while some hearings were left for their original dates. Shafer, Chisago Lake and Sunrise Townships had their hearings eliminated set for February. These were pushed out to May 15 at 7 p.m. for Shafer; April 15 at 7 p.m. for Chisago Lake and April 17, at 7 p.m. for Sunrise.
Amador Township may hold a second hearing May 20 but for now its February 18 hearing (5 p.m.) is still on the calendar. Fish Lake and Rushseba Township hearings are March 3, 6:30 and 7 p.m. respectively. In other infrastructure issues:
~ The Board made final payment for the County Road 19 bridge replacement. Total cost for work certified was $609,154.
~ Acquisition of easement right of way for improving County Road 24 north of Chisago City (about 575 feet in Section 31) will proceed so engineers can schedule projects.
~ A crossing of the Sunrise Prairie Trail near Heims Lake (Wyoming) was okayed officially. There is a crossing for a private driveway already and action simply “memorialized” this easement for new property owners. Rick Greene is serving as Chair of the county’s Regional Rail Authority for 2014. The Board will see bids for two big ticket items at its Feb 19 meeting. The government center chiller needs to be replaced and there will be proposals for that. A roof assessment is also being done to determine if the 100 ton capacity unit can be supported. Also, electronic document handling and storage is being developed for Health & Human Services. The Board gave consultant Mike Sexe the go-ahead to bring purchase agreements for hardware, tech support, etc. to the next meeting.