Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


This summer 117 youth from the nine county service area of Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) got a headstart in making their lives bigger and better. These at risk youth participated in an eight week paid work experience that combined training in how to interview, how to get and keep a job. But there was more.
The youth also learned about how to use their hard earned money wisely. They learned about the influences of advertising and the power it has to woo away their money. They learned about the principles of saving money and the benefits saving will bring. They learned how to handle their money frugally. And most of all, they learned about the correlation of staying in school and the power it has to enhance their earning ability for the rest of their lives. For example, they learned that the staying in school one day will enhance their earning capacity by $528 for each day for the rest of their lives.
As one of the participants wrote in his evaluation, “thank you for helping and wanting to make our lives bigger and better.”
In other news from MVAC, the annual audit was presented to the board. The agency works to help people locally and this work is done in partnership with federal, state, and local governments. The funding for the agency has changed in recent years. For example:
the following shows comparisons between 2003 and 2007.
Federal dollars made up 57% of funds in 2003. 74% of funds in 2007.
State dollars made up 36% of funds in 2003. 13% of funds in 2007.
Local dollars made up 7% of funds in 2003. 13% of funds in 2007.
This is a good example of devolution. Local dollars are having to make up the for the lack of adequate support from the state. end

Monday, August 20, 2007


Communications from Governor Tim Pawlenty’s office since August 1 have indicated specific issues he prefers to be covered in a special session of the legislature. He wants to control it so the legislature comes together, accomplishes the task at hand and adjourns. No one can fault the governor for this kind of tactic. He has listed some of the ways he would like to see improvements made in the area of transportation. He has indicated that a small increase in the gas tax might be appropriate. At one point, he said to the Almanc TV audience “everything is on the table”.
It would only be prudent for a special session to include a major funding package to help counties, cities, and townships that have suffered millions of dollars of loss in infrastructure as a result of the flooding over this past weekend. This would certainly mean a gas tax increase – but it must be much more because of other types of infrastructure affected. Cities will need help with storm sewers, water treatment, utility lines like water, gas, electricity, telephone, internet – the whole ball of wax!
We need a disaster fund set aside on the state level so that we can have quick action getting communities back to a semblance of normal. It might be Brown’s Valley, it might be Southeast Minnesota, it might be a bridge collapsing, or a forest fire. It could be a tornado in St. Peter or Chandler or Le Sueur County. We have continual needs that must be met if we are going to be a “state that works.” The state used to have “rainy day funds”. Of course, these dollars don’t appear out of the blue. Taxes fund rainy day funds and every other need that governments are faced with. Maybe the time is right for the state to set aside money for emergencies. If we ever needed a rainy day fund, it is a day like this when the rain is still coming down. end

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bridges of Nicollet County

In addition to all of the information presented in local media about local bridges, the following gives us a glimpse of Nicollet County’s bridges. Nicollet County Engineer, Mike Wagner reports that there are 71 bridges in Nicollet County (County and Township). 56 have been built or rebuilt since 1980. Our only river bridge is at CSAH 24, South of Courtland. None of our bridges are rated as structurally deficient. This is a credit to our public work’s staff and to the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners. Over the years, the county has aggressively pursued state bridge bonding money to upgrade our bridges.We have two people at the Public Works Department that are certified inspectors. For a few of the bridges (i.e., river bridge), we contract with MnDOT for inspection. By law, most bridge types must be inspected annually. County Engineers are also responsible for Township bridges. Local officials can be held liable if we allow the use by the public of a bridge that is unsafe.

Our County Engineer, Mike Wagner and the Nicollet County Board share concerns of many local officials that, Statewide, funding is grossly inadequate. We are hopeful that this tragedy may lead to a Special Legislative Session and another look at highway funding in general. The active project that Nicollet County is currently involved in is the replacement of Judson bridge. This is a cooperative effort with Blue Earth County. end