Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, September 7, 1998

Small culvert affects LP area family

By Russell Victorian

Allen Klaustermeier and family of rural Lester Prairie have been dealing with drainage issues on the Klaustermeier property due to a culvert their now deceased father put in to replace a bridge.

The culvert is along County Ditch No. 10 in Winsted Township on the Klaustermeier property.

The culvert is too small and restricts the capacity of flow of the ditch, said Mike Junge, county attorney.

Now it needs to be corrected, Junge said.

Klaustermeier went before the McLeod County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to discuss his options for replacing the culvert.

He is waiting for a used culvert to come from Paynesville and plans to put it in as soon as it arrives to deal with the drainage issue.

"It has to reach (at least) the point of its original construction," Junge said.

Klaustermeier questioned the history of the ditch authority, and whose responsibility it was to pay for replacing the culvert.

He said there is no record at the county auditor's office on that culvert's (bridge) history.

County Commissioner Sheldon Nies said that usually indicates that those people paid for those ditch projects and not the county.

Nies said who pays for the ditch projects is based on the history of each ditch (culvert or bridge). "If there are no records of it at the county, the county probably did not pay for it."

Klaustermeier said purchasing the culvert and placing it into the ditch would cost approximately $12,000. He said he would cover putting it in if the county paid for the culvert, which would be about $4,000.

Nies said that would be asking the county to change that process (of who takes care of the those ditches - the county ditch system or the private landowner), a change like that would be up to the board. But he said he would not go ahead without consulting the rest of the people on that ditch.

Junge said the state statute maintains that any new construction after 1947 must be maintained by the drainage authority, which, in McLeod County, is the county board.

Before 1947, the statute is permissive and does not make mandatory the maintenance of the culvert by the drainage authority, he said.

Each commissioner is considered an inspector and can approve repairs on ditches up to $5,000, Junge said. Anything above that must be approved by the board.

He said the county did not have an option to leave it as it is because the culvert currently restricts the flow in that ditch.

Junge said the county's options were to grant the request, to deny the request or to table the request with the option to hold a ditch meeting.

Klaustermeier said he would like to see a precedent set for people in the future.

Nies said, "When we make a decision on this issue, there will be a precedent set for that area."

Commissioner Grant Knutson said he wanted to make sure it was done right and motioned to table the matter.

The issue was tabled to the Sept. 8 county board meeting in Stewart, where Commissioner Ray Bayerl will report to the board on a date to hold a ditch meeting.

As to the events which led up to the current issue, Nies said one cannot change the past, but they did need to look at it now and do what had to be done to get that culvert (ditch) up to code.

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