Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 21, 2003

Bergen residents favor road swap with county

By Julie Yurek

Bergen Township residents voted 17-8 to swap ownership of two miles of McLeod County Road 55 with McLeod County, in exchange for the county taking over 190th Street.

More than 30 residents attended the special meeting last Monday at the township hall.

County Road 55 would become a township road and 190th Street would be a county road, said Chairman Eugene Feltmann.

A couple of residents were concerned that many landowners who live on County Road 55 were not present.

Feltmann assured them that the proper notices were published the required 10 days prior to the meeting.

"Tonight is just to decide if the issue should go farther or be dropped," Feltmann said.

The approval is to bring the subject to a public hearing, he said.

What two miles of County Road 55 the township will take must also be decided, he added.

McLeod County Commissioner Ray Bayerl was present to answer questions, as well as McLeod County Engineer John Brunkhorst and McLeod County Highway Foreman Howard Manthei.

The road swap issue was brought up for discussion at the annual meeting in March, Feltmann said

The township looked back in the minutes and the only reference it found about 190th Street was in 1964 when Bergen and Winsted townships met and shared in the rebuilding of the road together ­ it is a township line road, Feltmann said. "Nothing was ever said about the county taking the road over, but the county has since then."

"The county doesn't want to do it any more as a township road. They (county officials) offered that the county would keep 190th Street and we would take back two miles of County Road 55," Feltmann said.

"Where does Winsted Township stand on this?" asked a resident. "Aren't they involved because they own half of it too?"

Feltmann asked Larry Michaletz, who was present for the meeting and is a supervisor on the Winsted Township.

"I am not here representing Winsted Township. I can't comment. I am here as a landowner," Michaletz said.

Bergen Township is under the understanding that Winsted Township approves of the swap, Feltmann said.

"Why can't you just trade the maintenance on them?" a resident asked.

"Basically, we are trading maintenance," Brunkhorst said.

"What you don't have is the future costs. If we take 190th Street, we're going to have to rebuild it or possibly surface it some day a lot sooner than County Road 55 is ever going need surfacing," Brunkhorst said.

"We don't have actual counts for 190th Street, but by looking at the housing developments compared to County Road 55, there's a lot more traffic on 190th. County Road 55 is a low traffic road," he said.

"County Rroad 55 is not on the five-year plan to be tarred, and probably won't be in 10 years," Brunkhorst said. "There are higher priorities."

Some county state-aid roads have a higher priority when it comes to being tarred, Bayerl said.

"But the way the budgets are right now, I don't see it in the foreseeable future any gravel roads being tarred," he said.

"But there's something to say that you own property on a county road instead of a township road," a resident said. "I don't know if you can justify taking that status away from somebody."

"If that line of thinking holds true, then we never should have rebuilt County Road 1, which was Highway 261 - a state road," Bayerl said.

"At the first meeting for that project, I asked if that was important to people to have a state road. If that's the number one concern, then we're done right here," Bayerl said.

"The county took the road back and got the funds to rebuild it,"he said.

"For years, the 190th was being taken care of by the county. Why the change now?" asked resident Roger Mathews.

"If it is a township road, why did the county get involved in the first place?" he asked.

"I can't answer that. It was before I got on (the county commissioners board)," Bayerl said.

"When I got on, it was suggested we deal with it, but we never dealt with it. There always seemed to be something more pressing to deal with," he said. "Now it came up."

"It seems like a good idea. Winsted has two miles, and Bergen has two miles, it can be shared if people can agree," Bayerl said.

"Worst case scenario, let's say we vote it down because we don't understand what's going on. Let's see what the county comes up with," Mathews said.

"We wouldn't maintain it (190th Street) anymore," Brunkhorst replied.

"How can you just drop it?" Mathews asked.

"It's not our road. I guess you can say we've been doing it gratis since '64. I've looked at the records too and haven't found anything," Brunkhorst said.

"Both townships ­ there's two miles in each township ­ are getting county road money and they're not doing a thing to get it," Brunkhorst continued.

The township would have to do the maintenance and snow removal on 190th Street,"

"I don't see an advantage for the township," Mathews said.

"Does the board feel it's getting short-changed or is it an even exchange?" asked one unidentified resident.

"Drive on 190th Street and then drive on County Road 55. Who's getting the best end of the deal?" Feltmann asked.

"We are," the resident replied.

"Yeah," Feltmann said.

Purchasing a new John Deere grader

In other matters, residents approved the purchase of a new John Deere grader 23 votes to two.

A 2003 John Deere will cost the township $136,392, which is without the trade-in of the 1979 grader the township currently owns.

The board was presented information about two brands of graders, John Deere and Caterpillar. Keith Ruff of John Deere was present to answer questions from the audience.

The board will offically approve the purchase at the next regular board meeting, Thursday, May 8 at 8 p.m.

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