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.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Getting It Done"

There are ways to do highway projects even though funds are lacking or even not available locally. A county has the option to use four different grant programs. The money is from the Department of Public Safety. The one Nicollet County will be using is called the Comprehensive Highway Safety Program (CHSP). Nicollet County has identified a need to rectify potential safety concerns at the intersection of State Highway 99 and Nicollet County Road Number 40. It was desired to have a by-pass and right turn lane constructed there. Discussions with MnDot indicated there was no funding for this project. Nicollet County Highway Engineer, Mike Wagner then went through the hoops to access grant funds from the Comprehensive Highway Safety Program. Nicollet County got written support from the City of St. Peter, Oshawa Township and Traverse Township.
The bid opening for the project resulted in a low bid of $116,985.00. The county engineer's estimate was $126,576.25. As a result, the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners accepted the low bid on December 11 and the project is good to go using grant money for covering the entire cost.
An additional requirement for obtaining the grant is to hold a local safety meeting. This meeting will involve safety partners and other community leaders such as law enforcement, emergency responders, Mn/DOT District representatives, school representatives, and township officials. The goal of the meeting is to develop a dialog among local safety advocatesto explain the CHSP and Towards Zero Death (TZD) goals and objectives. This meeting will give the various partners a chance to share individual efforts to reduce fatalities and look for ways to cooperate in future strategies that will encompass not only engineering strategiesbut also enforcement, education and emergency services strategies. While this is a grant project, funding may be a topic of the safety meeting, there should be time allotted for participates to share their initiatives and time for discussion and questions. The meeting will be held at the Oshawa Township Hall sometime in January. The local initiative by our county staff has resulted in a project that will save injuries and possibly lives. end

Monday, December 17, 2007

County in the News

Last week, the Mankato Free Press published a story about Nicollet County and our relationship with the city of North Mankato. It appears the story had its origin when the newspaper found out that the city of North Mankato was paying someone to attend our county board meetings and tape the proceedings. These tapes are then shown on the public access channel for North Mankato. The city has done this because, our board has made the decision that taping our meetings would be costly and access to the tapes would be limited to only the county citizens who are living in the cities that have public access. (Note my blog entry of December 2, 2006).

I think taping of meetings is a good idea and if we could do it in a cost effective manner and distribute to all citizens of the county, I would support the expenditure. This is not possible at this time.

The bottom line is that the city officials of North Mankato feel that they are not being informed about what is happening at our meetings. They feel this way even though they are sent a draft copy of our board minutes as soon as the minutes are printed. This is usually the day following the meeting. The city officials have an easy way to find out what has happened or about upcoming issues that may affect the city. They can call Commissioner Dave Haack or Commissioner Jack Kolars. Both of them live in the city. Commissioner Haack has served on the county board for three years and he has indicated that city officials have talked to him only once in those three years. If there is a communication problem between the city and the county, the obvious answer is "talk to your commissioner".

The article also indicated that the city officials were unhappy because Nicollet County set up our own library board and they were not informed. It seems strange that they did not know about it. When the decision was made at a board meeting in June, the city received the draft minutes the next day. The North Mankato library received a recruiting poster to be placed in their library. The poster indicated that a new library board was being formed and asked for citizens to make application.

At least four citizens from North Mankato made an application. The recruitment process also included an article in the Mankato Free Press. The argument that we set up the board without letting them know about it is pretty lame. The end result is that North Mankato not only has a citizen as a voting member of the Nicollet County Library Board, but it also has an ex officio member. It would seem that this is being generous considering no tax dollars from North Mankato go toward supporting the Nicollet County Library services.

Regarding Nicollet County supporting the city in their relationship with TDS. It would have been very inappropriate for the county to be involved. The county is more than just one city. The county must represent all interests. While one part of the county has some disagreements with TDS; another part of the county does not share those disagreement. The county taking a neutral position was exactly the correct policy position for us to take. end

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Resolution on Clean Water

At our last meeting, the Nicollet County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in regard to the renewal of the Federal Clean Water Act. It is up for renewal by Congress this year. We all are glad that it was passed 30 years ago and great strides have been made in the way of making our waters purer.
This renewal effort is suggesting the same language as the previous act, with one change. The previous act used the words “navigable waters” in regard to jurisdiction by the Army Corps of Engineers. The new language being suggested changes the words “navigable waters” and uses the term “waters of the United States”. The National Association of Counties, the Minnesota Association of Counties, and Nicollet County feel that this change will broaden the scope of jurisdiction of the Army Corps and they will want to be consulted every time we clean a ditch or build a road that goes through a wet meadow or the like. The new language even goes so far as to allow jurisdiction of playa lakes. Don’t know what they are? A playa lake is a dessert basin that becomes a lake, only after a heavy rainfall. The Nicollet County Board’s resolution asked our Congressional representatives to pass the legislation and leave the terminology as it has been in the past. end