Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, December 21, 1998

Next section of Hwy 261 turnback could be years away


The Lester Prairie City Council met last Monday with incoming council members, area business leaders, county representatives, and State Representative Tony Kielkucki to discuss the turnback of Highway 261.

The turnback project would essentially hand the jurisdiction of the highway to McLeod County, thus making it a county road. Along with that, the county is allowed to ask the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to bring the road up to the county's specs.

McLeod Country Highway Engineer Rick Kjonaas pointed out, however, that MnDOT is 10 years behind on turnback projects across the state.

"We are having a hard time finding out when our turn is," he said.

He added that despite accelerated funding which might cut this period down to five years, many corridors around the state need work and some of those projects had full-time lobbyists working for their completion.

Kjonaas presented options of having the county build all or parts of the road with county funds, and then wait for a reimbursement from the state. The two parts which he offered for consideration were the point where Highway 7 meets 261 to 4.4 miles south, and from 4.4 miles south of Highway 7 to County Road 22.

He felt the county might be able to do the first part and get a guaranteed reimbursement from MnDOT.

The second half, which would be done later, was not guaranteed since MnDOT doesn't budget that far into the future. He asked the city council to present what its desires and hardships would be concerning the delay of the road.

Mayor Ed Mlynar outlined the concerns of the city.

He pointed out that currently the city has a potential problem with a water runoff holding pond located near Formative Engineering on Second Avenue.

The pond, which has no drain, is in danger of flooding. Mlynar predicted that a two-inch rainfall next spring could overflow the pond since the building roof, the tarred area, and the road next to it would not absorb any water causing flooding problems for Formative Engineering and the southwest area of Lester Prairie.

The city has held off on addressing this problem because it wanted to implement an improvement of Second Avenue's storm sewer's until work began on 261.

During construction, it could implement work to provide a drain for the runoff pond and implement two other projects as well. This would include a project to improve the water pressure and servicing to the area by constructing a water main loop and extending sewer services, and another project to run a line from a storm sewer runoff pond to the Crow River.

The total estimated cost of these projects would be $351,299 for the city, but some of the projects' costs would be taken on by the county. The city reportedly has at least half those funds available already.

Kjonaas saw the city's need and said he would bring any recommendation from the city to the county commissioners. He believed that he could bring $1 million dollars to the turnback project but offered no guarantee.

The city council has drafted such a recommendation that the county consider its dilemma and provide such funds. The cost to the city will be an estimated $351,000.

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