Wright County Board Minutes
WRIGHT COUNTY BOARD MINUTES OCTOBER 16, 2007
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Heeter, Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek and Eichelberg present.
Eichelberg moved to approve the 10-09-07 County Board Minutes, seconded by Mattson, carried 5-0.
Petitions were accepted to the Agenda as follows: Aud./Treas. Item #3, “Online Tax Payment Statistics” (Hiivala); Item For Consid. #4, “Meeting Announcement, Wright County Futures Project” (Norman). Heeter moved to approve the Agenda as amended, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
On a motion by Heeter, second by Mattson, all voted to approve the Consent Agenda:
1. Performance Appraisals: C. Hayes, M. Nolan, Admin.; C. Beutler, H. Bray, J. Coolen, Hwy.
2. O/T Report, Period Ending 10-05-07.
1. Approve New Tobacco License For Neisen Liquors Of Cokato (City Of Cokato).
1. Authorize Additional Cost Of $6,100 For Phase I Archaeology Survey On Stanley Eddy Park “Alama Unit” As Part Of The Project Budget.
D. PLANNING & ZONING
1. Accept The Findings & Recommendations Of The Planning Commission For The Following Rezonings:
A. Morris R. Rininger (Buffalo Twp.). Planning Commission unanimously recommend approval of the request to rezone from AG to A/R.
1. Refer Work Out Of Classification Pay For Pat O’Malley To The Personnel Committee.
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, presented an amended Investment Policy for approval. The investment area of the policy was previously rewritten by Hiivala and former Auditor/Treasurer, Doug Gruber. With the upcoming Jail bond issuance, funds may need to be invested with brokers. The policy would be revised to include Guaranteed Investment Contracts. LarsonAllen, the firm hired by the County for audits, has recommended adoption of such policies. The County Board could not recall that the Investment Policy had ever been adopted. It was noted that the Policy being adopted may not be an amended Policy. Eichelberg moved to approve the 2007 Investment Policy, seconded by Heeter, carried 5-0.
Hiivala provided statistics on online tax payments. As of yesterday, 89 taxpayers utilized echeck and 73 taxpayers used credit card for a total of $203,250.87. Hiivala thanked the newspapers for including a news release on the availability of online tax payments. A notice will be advertised again in newspapers and posted on the Internet prior to the Spring property tax payment deadline. This was provided as an informational item.
On a motion by Mattson, second by Heeter, all voted to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit.
A Building Committee Meeting was held on 10-10-07. At today’s County Board Meeting, Mattson moved to approve the minutes and recommendation, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0:
COURT SERVICES DEPARTMENT REMODELING. MacMillan stated that during the budget process, Court Services placed a request for remodeling dollars. MacMillan stated that with the assistance of Hayes and Buskey, they procured bids from Intereum and Ernst Construction for construction of a new office and modular equipment for clerical stations:
$6,250 to reconfigure the front reception area; plus $7,500 to reconfigure the office portion; equals $13,750
The front reception area will accommodate up to six modular workstations. In the back, three modular workstations will accommodate the newly constructed office space, allowing for two clerical workstations to remain. The enclosed office space is to be built for the new agent position, approved for January, 2008. Discussion occurred on whether the millwork in the front reception area will be removed and if it is salvageable. MacMillan stated that he understood most of the millwork would be reused in the remodel. MacMillan stated that there are two other items that he feels may need to be addressed during future budget processes: security cameras and storage lockers. He stated that he is not looking for any action on the two items at this time. His concern with the above items derives from his belief that his Department is working with serious offenders, and feels it is his duty to request security for his Department staff. RECOMMENDATION: Allow a not-to-exceed amount of $15,000 from Budget 100, Site Improvements line item for the remodel. (End of Building Committee Minutes)
A Personnel Committee Meeting was held on 10-10-07. At today’s County Board Meeting, Eichelberg moved to approve the minutes and recommendation. The motion was seconded by Mattson and carried unanimously:
DISCUSS PARKING ISSUES & PARKING POLICY. Norman stated that Bob Nelson, City resident, presented his complaints regarding employee parking on residential streets at the 9-14-07 Board Meeting. Nelson’s main concern was that now that there is an additional parking lot, employees and the public continue to park near the intersection of 1st Avenue NW and 2nd Street NW. Parking near, or at, the intersection obstructs a driver’s line of sight at the stop sign of the intersection. The problem was magnified during the rerouting of traffic on 1st Avenue NW due to Highway 25 construction. There is a Parking Policy in place for County employees that indicates the areas where County employees are to park. Enforcement of employee parking is the largest challenge as the new west parking lot is open to employees and the public doing business at the Courthouse. Auger stated that the City had not received any complaints about parking on residential streets until the detour was placed during the re-construction of Highway 25. Melvin stated that in the past he has contacted the Buffalo Police Department requesting enforcement of the two hour public parking. Two or three neighbors have complained about employees parking on the street when there are open parking slots in the parking lot. Melvin stated that he has been trying to monitor the parking patterns and has been posting notices on the known employee-owned cars that are parking near the intersection. Norman requested that the City extend the yellow “No Parking” strips further back from the intersection to support a better line of sight. Auger stated that he believes that the City did extend the strips last week. Norman stated that it is his observation that there is a good amount of turnover in the number of vehicles moving in and out of parking places on the street due to Court and license related business. Eichelberg stated that within a year and a half, the Sheriff Department and Jail will be moving north to a new facility. Norman stated that eventually the Courts will be moving north as well. Auger stated that with as busy as the Government Center is, the City has not received very many complaints about traffic and parking. Melvin stated that one of Nelson’s recommendations to the County was to require all employees to have a parking sticker versus a parking permit. Eichelberg stated that the streets are public property, and unless the street is marked accordingly, residents, employees and the public can legally park wherever they want. Auger stated that if the City and the County can be patient, the move of the Sheriff Department and Jail will cause a lot of the parking issues to disappear. Discussion occurred on whether to include specific wording in the Parking Policy restricting employees from parking on residential areas. Norman added that street parking by employees may not be a violation of State or City laws, however, it may be a violation of the County Parking Policy. Norman stated that his main concern is enforcement. The County would have to be the enforcing agency and the question would be “how does one enforce the parking policy?” Melvin stated that some employees either forget or refuse to display their parking permits. In cases of violation, Melvin explained that he writes down the license plate numbers and has Sgt. Phil Thinesen research the owners of the vehicles. It is time consuming for both Melvin and Thinesen. Melvin commented that most employees are cooperative when reminded that they are in violation of the Parking Policy. Eichelberg stated that he would be in favor of leaving the Policy as-is. Norman proposed that the County’s position be voiced at the next Leadership Team Meeting. The County’s position is that parking has been made available for its employees, and it is expected that the employees park in the designated areas. Eichelberg asked if the City has an issue with placing a cross walk mid-block at the new West Parking Lot. Auger stated that the City would not have a problem with adding a cross walk on 1st Avenue NW, however, they would need to extend the yellow striping so that there is an extended line of vision for drivers in the crosswalk area. RECOMMENDATION: Leave the Parking Policy as-is. The City will place a mid-block crosswalk upon completion of Ernst’s construction of a new sidewalk at the West Parking Lot. (End of Personnel Committee Minutes)
Bruce Kimmel, Springsted Financial Advisors, presented the official recommendation for $53,570,000 in Series 2007A General Obligation Jail Bonds. This amount is necessary for the estimated $50 million in project costs for the Jail/LEC Construction Project. The $50 million projected cost was provided to Kimmel by Norman based upon the opening of the 3rd bid package. The sale date and time was originally recommended for 11-12-07 at 1:00 P.M. with award by the County Board on 11-13-07 at 9:00 A.M. Today, Kimmel requested that the date be changed because of Veterans Day falling on 11-12-07. He did not feel it would be an active bond market that day. The recommendation is for the sale date and time to be set for 11-13-07 at 10:30 A.M. with award on 11-13-07 at 2:30 P.M. They will solicit from underwriters all over the Country. The bonds will mature annually 12-01-11 through 2029. Interest will be paid semiannually June 1 and December 1, commencing December 1, 2008. The bonds will be general obligations of the County. Repayment of the bonds will be further secured by the State under its County Credit Enhancement Program, which will improve the marketability of the bonds. There is a nominal fee of $500 to be a part of the Program. The County will levy for the bonds in 2007 for collection in 2008. Capitalized interest, included in the par amount of the bonds, plus levy collections will be used to pay the 12-01-08 through 6-01-10 interest payments. Thereafter, taxes levied each year will be used to pay the June 1st interest payment and December 1st principal and interest payment due in the year of collection. The County has the option in 10 years to prepay or refinance the bonds. An application will be made to Moody’s Investors Service for rating on the bonds. The County’s general obligation debt is currently rated “A1” by Moody’s. With enrollment in the County Credit Enhancement Program, Moody’s will automatically assign a rating of “Aa2” to the bonds based on the credit rating of the State. Page 5 of the handout includes a narrative on the bond issue and how it is structured. The County will be well beneath the Statutory maximum for Jail bonds. Because of the structure of the maturity schedule of the bonds, it is likely to receive a premium bid from underwriters. A premium bid means that the issue size, approximately $50 million, and the individual principal maturity size are attractive to institutional investors that will likely demand a pricing structure that will generate a price in excess of the principal amount of the bonds. Kimmel said this was anticipated in the structure being proposed today. If the bid is more than the premium, the amount of the bonds will be reduced. The interest cost and debt service to the County will remain the same. Kimmel said the figures may be adjusted slightly to assure the $50 million is received for the Jail/LEC project. The bond amount on November 13th might be slightly different than figures reflected today. Page 8 reflects the sources and uses of funds. The Total Use is reflected at $54,081,600.75 to include a Deposit to the Project Construction Fund ($50 million); Deposit to the Capitalized Interest Fund ($3,436,406.25); the Total Underwriter’s Discount ($511,600.75); the Costs of Issuance ($129,250), and Rounding Amount ($4,343.75). The Source of Funds reflects Par Amount of Bonds ($53,570,000) and the Reoffering Premium ($511,600.75). The final bonding amount will be tailored to the County’s needs. Page 9 shows the Net Debt Service Schedule, and Column 9 indicates the levy required for the project. Kimmel said that based upon a suggestion by the County, the schedule reflects the County’s existing debt service combined with the proposed debt service increasing from $2.4 million in 2008 to $4.7 million in 2029.
Norman said the first bond payment is due 12-01-08. The County Board set their draft certified levy for 2008 in September. He was unsure whether this was included as part of the debt service for 2008. Kimmel understood that this was either going to be factored into the budget or would be funded from other resources. Norman distributed information that clarifies what the $50 million figure is based upon. The handout includes information from A&P and the City of Buffalo. The Board could decide to recapture out of bond proceeds the costs for items which were funded from the reserve fund. Another option would be to pay for the items up front out of cash reserves and not levy for them over a 20-year period. The list totals $49,744,427 and excludes the potential sales tax rebate. A more detailed listing could be obtained from Hiivala on items paid from Professional Services or the Capital Account. These would include such things as architectural services, construction management services, testing, building permits, and City of Buffalo costs (including SAC/WAC charges). Representatives from A&P were present and provided Norman with a cost analysis reflecting a project total of $49,249,338. One thing that has been under budget in past projects is soft costs and equipment costs. Mattson questioned whether the figures provided included the low bid. Norman confirmed this. Sawatzke said with this project, the County is doing a better job of utilizing existing furniture and equipment. He hoped the soft costs and equipment costs were adequate.
Sawatzke questioned whether it is certain that the County will be eligible for a sales tax rebate and what the estimate rebate might be. Tim Clark, A&P, explained rebates historically range from 2.4% to 2.6% of the overall construction costs. This would be approximately $850,000. Sawatzke felt that the $50 million figure projected for the project should be adequate. Kimmel requested a final figure for the bonds. If the Board desired to reduce the bond amount, he requested that input so the bonds could be restructured and reflected in the official statement.
Kimmel said Hiivala has agreed to solicit bids from investment providers who will give a fixed rate investment contract for the construction proceeds. The County would not be locked into that. There are some local financial institutions that have expressed interest as well. They anticipate they would be able to get in today’s market an investment contract rate, which is a fixed interest rate for the life of the spend down of the proceeds, of approximately 5%. They are showing a bond yield of about 4.4%. Kimmel said he wouldn’t encourage the County Board to over bond. However he felt comfortable that the County may be able to invest at a higher rate. As long as the County meets the spend down tests required by the IRS, the County can keep those arbitrage earnings and use them toward construction costs or if not needed, to reduce the levy requirements. Kimmel said the County should inform him today if they wanted the bond issuance to be less than $50 million, otherwise he felt they could go to market with this structure.
Sawatzke referenced potential revenues which could be realized through interest and investments and suggested the potential use of those revenues to reduce the levy, if possible. The draft budget does not include anything in this regard but potentially could be included if this amount were determined by the time of the Truth in Local Taxation Hearing. He questioned what options the County might have if the project expenditures totaled $49 million and the County borrowed $50 million. Kimmel said there is a difference between bond proceeds and investments. Bond proceeds may only be used for project costs. If all of the proceeds are not used for project costs, the proceeds can be used toward debt service payments to reduce the levy requirements for 2008, 2009 and 2010. Investment earnings are more flexible and can be used for other governmental purposes (road improvements and things ancillary to the project). Norman stated that during today’s meeting, Hiivala did confirm that over $600,000 was added to the debt service levy to make the first interest payment in 2008. With regard to sales tax, Norman said the County will have to make application to the State for a sales tax rebate. It is an unknown whether the State will change their rules regarding rebates. Clark said there are certain requirements that must be met for sales tax rebates. As a Construction Management firm, A&P will gather all data for the County. At the end of the project, it will be supplied to the Auditor/Treasurer to determine whether the County qualifies for a rebate.
Discussion continued regarding the total bond amount. Norman said based on project cost worksheets completed by both himself and A&P, along with the County’s ability to utilize interest earned on bonds during construction, the bond amount could potentially be lowered to $49 million. Sawatzke said $800,000 in costs could be reduced because of sales tax. In addition, interest earnings could be removed. Kimmel asked whether the construction contingency of 3% is adequate as this figure is typically higher. Norman said all bids have been opened and the apparent low bidder has been identified. He and A&P are comfortable with the 3% construction contingency.
Hiivala said the County has already provided to the State the maximum certified levy figure. From this point forward, that amount can only be reduced. The Truth In Local Taxation Hearing is scheduled for 12-06-07. Norman said that the resolution setting the final levy is normally adopted the Tuesday following the Hearing. If the Truth In Local Taxation Hearing were continued, the date to set the final levy could be another week later. Based upon further discussion, Kimmel recommended the $53 million figure. That way, there would be an identified amount that could be included within the resolution and minutes instead of a projected number. Also, the market likes large, round numbers. With regard to interest earned on bonds, Hiivala felt there was the potential to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. This would be dependent on when money is spent. The County already earned $1.5 million prior to contract payments. It was his recommendation to spend bond proceeds before interest or levy dollars. Mattson moved to adopt Resolution #07-55 providing for the issuance and sale of $53 million in General Obligation Jail Bonds, Series 2007A. It was clarified that this is the par amount of the bonds. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg and carried 5-0 on a roll call vote.
Joe Jacobs, SWCD, said the Wright County Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan has been reviewed and approved by the MN Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR). The County Board previously took action to acknowledge this. The next step is to adopt a resolution formally adopting the Plan. The Plan will then be distributed to municipalities for a 60-day review and appeal period. The municipalities will have 180 days for their water plans to fall under the County’s Plan. Eichelberg moved to adopt Resolution #07-56, seconded by Heeter, carried 4-0 (Mattson absent).
Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, requested a date and time be set to consider adopting amendments to the Wright County Tobacco Ordinance. The amendments relate to three areas of the Ordinance. The first proposed change relates to fees. Currently the County is experiencing problems with some retailers not renewing licenses which are on a calendar-year basis. Retailers are notified in the fall of renewal. There is a 30-day grace period. If licenses are not renewed by the end of January, it is proposed to double the fee. The second proposed change relates to the definition for multiple licenses. For example, if a business owner has two businesses on the same parcel, they will need to purchase two separate licenses. This is the intent of the Ordinance but it needs to be clarified. The third change relates to adding language to the penalties for the administrative fine provision. There have not been any improvements in the compliance ratings. The Ordinance currently states that a fine of $75 will be imposed for the first offense. The language change will include the language “not less than” prior to the penalty amount. Notice of the intent to amend the Ordinance will be published. This will not require a public hearing. Heeter moved to set 11-13-07 at 9:30 A.M. to review the proposed amendments to the Wright County Tobacco Ordinance. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke and carried 5-0.
The meeting recessed at 10:00 A.M. and reconvened at 10:11 A.M.
Tim Clark, A&P Senior Project Manager, presented Bid Package #3 contractor recommendations:
Bid Category 6B, Architectural Woodwork. Recommendation to award to Haldeman Homme at a contract value of $517,800.
Bid Category 7C, Joint Sealants. Recommendation to award to Right Way Caulking at a contract value of $165,024.
Bid Category 9C, Acoustical Ceilings. Recommendation to award to Twin City Acoustics at a contract value of $471,985.
Bid Category 9D, Flooring. Recommendation to award to Becker Brothers at a contract value of $291,500. They were the second low bidder but Clark understood the County was interested in Alternate A2 for finishes. This would provide a deduct of $55,372 which would then place Becker Brothers as the low bidder with a contract amount of $236,128.
Bid Category 32A, Asphalt Concrete Paving. Recommendation to award to Knife River Corporation at a contract value of $469,997. Clark and Streich met with this contractor and confirmed everything was included as indicated in the construction documents.
Bid Category 32B, Exterior Concrete Work. Recommendation to award to MN State Curb & Gutter at a contract value o $194,650.
Bid Category 32C, Landscaping. Recommendation to award to North Metro Landscaping at a contract value of $198,190.
The total for all bid categories presented today was $2,309,146. Alternate A2 relates to the deletion of vinyl wall covering. Sawatzke explained that at the last County Board Meeting, it was decided to proceed with vinyl flooring in lieu of linoleum, vinyl base in lieu of rubber base, and vinyl treads in lieu of rubber. The grade of carpeting was changed for one carpet. Cliff Buikema from KKE Architects was to contact the contractor to determine whether they will provide roll carpeting in lieu of squares without raising the cost and possibly reducing it. Norman referenced Bid Category 32A, Asphalt Concrete Paving, and inquired whether this was the contract discussed last week with regard to a Class 5 bituminous base versus crushed limestone. Clark confirmed this was the contract. The two bids were compared and they include the same thing. At this point, the County cannot negotiate with a contractor until there is a contract. The other option would be to re-bid. Otherwise, the County is held to the low bid as the scope of the contract was met. Bids received on the project are good for 45 days but Clark has requested extensions in the past. Russek was in contact with the Highway Engineer who indicated that the Class 5 material should be adequate. Discussion followed on the potential savings of $75,000 or more using Class 5. It was the consensus of the County Board that this issue be discussed further at the Owner’s Committee Meeting scheduled for 1:00 P.M. today. Heeter moved to accept the bids for Categories 6B, 7C, 9C, 9D, 32B, and 32C including Alternate 2, Finishes. The motion does not include Bid Category 32A. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke and carried 5-0.
Tom Salkowski, Planning & Zoning Administrator, presented a request to accept the recommendation of the Planning Commission to adopt Zoning Ordinance Amendments. The majority of the Amendments relate to the replacement of County sign regulations. This was completed at the request of Silver Creek Township, but Salkowski recognized that the Ordinance needed updating. The other portion of the Amendments relate to a set of recommendations from the Board of Adjustment to the Planning Commission on new or changed definitions relating to undersized lake lots. With regard to the signs, there are two types including business or billboards. Business signs are those located on the site of the business. Billboards advertise something that is not located on that site. Initially they did not set out to make changes in the billboard regulations. After meeting with local sign companies, changes were made to standardize signs and include changes to height, setback and setting size of signs. It is also proposed that billboards be limited to the three main highways including US Hwy. 12, I-94, and TH-55. The current Ordinance allows billboards on County and township roads, and State Highways 25 and 24. The proposed conditions will apply to rural areas and is being done to maintain the rural atmosphere. Digital signs will be prohibited in the rural area. Cities will determine what is done within the city limits. Russek said the Planning Commission held a Public Hearing on the proposed Ordinance changes. Representatives from sign companies were present to request changes that were incorporated into the proposed language. Mattson referenced correspondence from Noel LaBine, Wright County Economic Development Partnership, that was sent to the Planning Commission outlining concerns he had for businesses. Salkowski said the letter was distributed and reviewed. The proposed Ordinance Amendments allow for larger and more improved business signs. However, there may be some who disagree with LaBine’s viewpoint on the importance of billboards within the County. Most commercial and industrial development is located within cities. Russek said that the Planning Commission reviewed LaBine’s letter. The recommendation remained because the feeling is that the township areas should remain rural. Mattson favored billboards as a means to direct travelers, especially in unfamiliar areas. Russek said billboards will be allowed on the main arteries within the County. Eichelberg said a lot of time has been spent on the proposed Amendments and some changes will be incorporated as proposed. Additional amendments can be brought forth in the future as things progress in Wright County. Eichelberg moved to adopt Ordinance #07-02, approving the Zoning Ordinance Amendments relating to Section 724, Sign Regulations, seconded by Sawatzke. The motion carried 5-0.
Discussion then led to the proposed Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, Sections 302, 408 and 716.4. Salkowski said the Board of Adjustment spends approximately 75% of its time on issues relating to undersized lakeshore lots. The proposed Amendments include a series of definitions on new construction, building additions and remodels, impervious surface, digital signs, detached accessory structures, garages on lots, and sewage and wastewater treatment disposal standards. The majority of the Amendments relate to clarifications on policies with the exception of the limit on detached accessory buildings on small lots. The remainder is clarification of policies developed by the Board of Adjustment based upon what has developed over many years of experience. Heeter moved to adopt Ordinance #07-03, approving the Zoning Ordinance Amendments relating to Sections 302, 408, and 716.4, as requested by the Board of Adjustment. The motion was seconded by Mattson and carried 5-0.
These amendments to the Wright County Zoning Ordinance are too lengthy to be practically included herein in full. A complete copy is available from the Wright County Office of Planning and Zoning and is on file and available for inspection in the Wright County Coordinator’s Office. Pursuant to M.S. 375.51,Subd.3, the ordinance amendments can be summarized as: a complete replacement of Section 724 Sign Regulations as well as several new or amended definitions and clarifications to the zoning ordinance as recommended by the Wright County Board of Adjustment.
Salkowski presented a recommendation from staff not to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Scherber Companies, LLC Gravel Mining & Crushing Operation, Section 4 (Buffalo Township). Salkowski said Bill Stephens, Environmental Health Officer, and Scott Deckert, Assistant Planner, completed most of the work on the Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). Residents in the area of the proposed project petitioned to have an EAW completed for the project. Comments made to the EAW and the ensuing responses from County staff and consultants for the applicant do not indicate the need for an EIS. The issue at hand today was to decide whether an EIS Statement was necessary and has nothing to do with whether the gravel permit is issued. The Planning Commission will hold a hearing on 10-25-07 regarding issuance of the permit. The EAW pointed out that the operation may include recycling of bituminous and concrete. This was not included in the original request to the Planning Commission and subsequent notices for the Hearing. If this is pursued, new notice will be required. The final decision on the gravel permit may be delayed as a result.
Bill Stephens, Environmental Health Officer, read the following statement:
Wright County conducted an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the Scherber Companies Gravel Mining and Crushing Operation in Section 4 of Buffalo Township pursuant to a citizen’s petition submitted to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB). The comment period for this EAW closed on September 26 with comments received from five sources; The Wright County Highway Department, The MN Dept. of Agriculture, the MPCA and two private respondents.
In general, many of the comments and concerns addressed traffic, noise, dust produced from the project, surface water runoff and groundwater quality, which can be addressed and controlled with guidance from the Planning Commission. Potential impacts to an apple orchard located on the parcel to the east may be mitigated with operational restrictions during pollination and harvesting periods of the business in addition to extensive dust control measures during operations. Once again, this could be addressed with the Planning Commission.
During the comment period I became aware of a situation in Kandiyohi County where a citizens group had filed a lawsuit concerning an EAW for a gravel pit. While all responses received during the comment period to this EAW were addressed, due to that litigation and the responses we received from the petitioners for this EAW, we took a second, harder look at the cumulative impacts item of the EAW and had Scherber Companies address that item more thoroughly.
Cumulative impacts and/or cumulative potential effects are being looked at more closely with recent EAWs. This is meant to ensure that similar uses within a particular area are all considered when conducting an EAW. Meeting the requirements of the various agencies that responded during the comment period concerning traffic, air and water quality and land reclamation should alleviate those issues. Scherber Companies has stated in their responses that all other issues will be addressed. Concerns of proposed land use compatibility with existing uses are more subjective. However, the proposal is allowed by current zoning guidelines as a conditional use and State law requires counties to protect aggregate resources for future use through their land use plans.
After reviewing all of the responses and checking on the research sited within comments received from the applicant, staff feels that there is not enough current evidence to show that significant environmental impacts would occur from this project to warrant the need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and recommend to you that no EIS be required. If the staff recommendation is followed, this decision does not issue a permit for this project. It only means that a more extensive and elaborate EIS is not required. The applicant must still go before the Planning Commission to obtain a conditional use permit for permission to go ahead with the project. (End of statement read by Stephens)
Stephens recommended that an EIS not be required for the project. The decision today is to determine whether to pursue an EIS, not the gravel permit.
Dr. Bob Milligan, resident of Wright County for 22 years, asked whether the Commissioners received the neighborhood response to the EAW (8-page document). Russek confirmed that copies had been received. Milligan said the neighborhood coalition supports the Planning & Zonings recommendation not to pursue an EIS. He referenced the documentation presented by Planning & Zoning for signature. He felt that signature on the documents would suggest that the Board of Commissioners support all items contained in the document. The neighborhood coalition has issue with some of the items Planning and Zoning has included in the document. Milligan referenced Page 4 of the Summary, Findings & Order. The document states “the proposed project is separated from the other two existing gravel mines both geographically and hydraulically.” Milligan said this may be for surface runoff. The wells that the County Board required Knife River to drill at the Holthaus plant pretty much showed that the aquifer flowed to the north/northeast. He voiced concern with well water and referenced the 3M Plant on the east side of St. Paul. Milligan felt the aquifer would run right into the Gilchrest Acres Development which has at least 60 homes. With the Knife River Holthaus Pit, there are no major adjacent developments. He questioned what those property owners would do if groundwater were contaminated. Milligan said they disagree that there is not an issue with the water and they would like that considered. He felt it was interesting that the Department of Agriculture came into the comment period. On page 4 in the document, they are actually requesting and recommending that a qualified soil scientist be involved with reclamation. The Planning Department decided that was not necessary. He felt it was interesting the State thought this project required some professional oversite. Other issues of concern have to do with traffic. Milligan felt the document minimizes the issues and problems. When Milligan and his wife built in the area in 1986, the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners at that time required a limit of one driveway per two homes. They were required to share the drive with the lot next to them. The reason was that the traffic on CR 113 was becoming extensive with the gravel pits. Milligan said CR 113 is used for commuter traffic and inexperienced drivers traveling to the High School. There is a lot of traffic from 7:00-9:00 A.M. and from 3:00-6:00 P.M. They don’t care to walk on the roads. School buses also use the road. The EAW suggests 125 trucks/day on CR 113 which is dangerous to those who travel the road. It was his understanding that once the new Jail/LEC is constructed, CR 113 will be used to shuttle prisoners. Russek said CR 138 will be used. Milligan said the real concern is the CR 113/TH 25 intersection. When the intersection was used for the Knife River/Holthaus Pit, long delays occurred when turning onto TH 25 and there were numerous accidents. When the request was initially presented to the Township, Scherber indicated there would be a few trucks a week on the road. The EAW now reflects 125 trucks/day. The document Stephens prepared reflects a maximum of 50 trucks. Holthaus said with 50 trucks/day, this equates to 1 truck every 15 minutes. With 125 trucks/day, it equates to 1 truck movement every 3 minutes. He did not feel it was appropriate or safe to place that into a residential area or at the intersection of CR 113/TH 25. He said many residents are wondering about the plans for a turn lane. Scherber provided vague plans but the document prepared by Stephens has more specifics. The turn lane specified on CR 113 will be in front of Milligan’s property and a neighboring property. He questioned how they would get out of their driveways safely. In addition, Milligan is a physician and he said getting out of his driveway can be truly a life or death matter. He asked that this be taken into consideration. Milligan referenced page 6, which reflects that a CUP requires a reclamation/performance bond to Wright County at a rate of $1,000/mined acre or a bond of approximately $27,500. The neighborhood coalition had asked that Scherber Companies LLC have a bond or indemnity of no less than $100,000 before mining operations begin. Milligan said the neighborhood statement was signed by 60 area residents. It was Milligan’s understanding that it would take $60,000-$75,000 to reclaim the area and that the $27,500 would not be adequate. He said Scherber Companies, LLC is a limited liability company. In other words, they can move and ship their assets to another company. The proposed area totals 67 acres and Milligan did not feel $27,500 was adequate. He asked that if the County chooses to proceed with issuance of the gravel permit, appropriate signage be posted which would limit the speed limit in the area. He said the current speed limit is 55 mph, with traffic sometimes traveling at speeds of 70 mph. Milligan felt the speed limit should be reduced to 35 mph. If the Board chose to approve the document and sign it, he asked that the 125 trucks/day not be approved for the residential area. This area has 61 homes within a half mile of the proposed site and 181 homes within a one mile radius. His last comment was directed to the second to the last page of the document, dealing with compatibility to land use. Milligan disagreed with Planning & Zoning that this is subjective. Although current zoning may permit a gravel pit in the area, future plans for the area are not consistent with a gravel pit running 10 years in that area. It was recognized by the Planning Commission 20 years ago that the area is growing and that traffic is increasing. The County recently spent a large amount on the NE Quadrant Study identifying this to be rural residential in the future. He did not feel it was appropriate to give a 10-year CUP which goes against the work completed on the NE Quadrant Study.
Russek interjected that Milligan should be presenting all of this information to the Planning Commission. The County Board’s decision today addresses whether to require an EIS. The Planning Commission will address on 10-25-07 whether to issue a gravel permit. Milligan requested that the hearing on 10-25-07 be postponed to a future date as he has a conflict with that date that he is unable to change. Russek said the County is required to act within the 120-day window or the applicants request is approved. It is a statute requirement that the County must meet. Any conditions or comments that Milligan would like the Planning Commission to consider should be submitted in writing to the Planning & Zoning Office. They will forward copies to the Planning Commission members. Sawatzke clarified that the decision will not come before the County Board, that the Planning Commission makes the final decision on whether to issue the permit.
Dick Brown owns an apple orchard to the east of the proposed gravel pit. He referenced comments by the EAW on the effects of dust on the apple crop and mitigation. The document currently reflects it “could be mitigated” and Brown requested it be changed to “may be mitigated.” There is not positive proof that there will be no effect on the crop. Basically, he felt he was being asked to assume the risk of potential damage.
If the County Board accepts the EAW and does not ask for an EIS, Sawatzke questioned whether this would suggest that Board agrees with all statements contained in the document. Stephens said this would not be the case. Sawatzke referenced Brown’s comments and whether acceptance meant that every word contained within was specifically accurate. Stephens replied that comments were received during the comment period for the EIS. Staff fully recognizes that with any new project, there will be some impacts on surrounding neighborhoods. The question they are forced to deal with is whether there are any potential significant environmental impacts to require an EIS. Any issues that arise as concerns are brought forth for the Planning Commission to consider. At this point, Stephens said they see no need for an EIS. Russek asked whether the County has ever required an EIS. The response was the only one completed in the County was for the landfill and was completed by the PCA. There may have been one completed years ago for the nuclear plant.
Sawatzke said the EAW has been completed and he was not sure that it necessarily created assurances to adjacent properties, but he was unsure whether an EIS would do that either. Gravel pits are allowed in the ag zone and farming is a permitted use. If the Planning Commission determines this will be harmful to adjacent ag uses, then there is a problem. Of course, there are residential uses as well in the area. Sometimes housing developments create problems with land use in the future. Sawatzke was willing to accept the EAW as it was. So as not to create confusion, he stated he was unsure whether the proposed location was a good place for a gravel pit. The Planning Commission will have to determine this. Russek said the Planning Commission deals with gravel pit requests and each time, there are special issues. The apple orchard is an existing business and Brown’s livelihood. They will have to determine whether to base their decision on something that can be mitigated. However, there is no history to base their decision on. Mattson referenced Milligan’s comments relating to the gravel pit and said the EIS will not address those concerns. The Planning Commission will have to deal with those issues. Mattson felt the belly dumpster trucks are the most dangerous vehicles on the road. Mattson resides near CR 12 and there is a gravel pit to the south. Enforcement of driver safety was something he felt needed to be addressed. Stephens said that in reading through the guidelines from the State, if the County were to pursue an EIS it is a more extensive and elaborate environmental study for the proposed project in that area. Upon completion of the EIS, once again it would not make the decision on whether to permit the project. It would be referred back to the Planning Commission for decision. Norman stated that a fax was received this morning from Lori Cassady outlining her concerns with the gravel pit. It was distributed prior to the meeting. Eichelberg moved to not require an EIS for Scherber Companies LLC Gravel Mining & Crushing Operation, Section 4, Buffalo Township. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke. The motion includes authorizing the Board Chair’s signature on the Summary, Findings and Order. In response to Mattson, Salkowski stated that the Planning Commission has not taken a position on whether an EIS should be completed. The Planning Commission has copies of the EAW and comments for consideration. Mattson felt Franklin Denn had concern with dust at the orchard. Salkowski said it is difficult for anyone to address laws that deal with potential. Much of the wording in the EAW rules relate to making judgments based upon the potential. It is very difficult to make recommendations and decisions based upon potential. If someone would haul waste into the gravel pit, that would be a problem. If gravel is loaded and hauled away, that use has less potential to affect groundwater. The County is charged with making a decision on potential which can be impacted by how an owner operates. What the document prepared reflects is that staff does not see, under normal operating procedures and by those who follow the rules, a need for an EIS. That is the only decision being made today. Heeter said this could potentially put Brown out of business. There are also traffic issues on CR 113 and TH 25. However, she was unsure an EIS would make a difference in those areas. Sawatzke referenced the orchard and dust control at critical times during the year. He said the County cannot promise what any applicant will do but the rules can be set out. Heeter did not want Brown to be the test case for the rest of the country. Russek said the Planning Commission has been struggling with this request since the first application. He did not feel that one business should be brought in that would put another out of business. Stephens referenced the difficulty in making judgments based upon future effects. It is extremely difficult to do without some type of history. He felt the petitioners concerns were valid. What is being asked of the County Board is to determine whether or not an EIS should be required. The motion carried 4-1 with Heeter casting the nay vote.
Richard Norman, County Coordinator, presented a recommendation for the Christmas Eve schedule for Government Offices. This is being brought forth as a request presented during negotiation sessions. Rather than negotiate a schedule into contracts, it was agreed a policy statement would be adopted for all County Government offices. Heeter moved to approve the schedule with a change to Item #3, which should be changed as follows: “Employees who do not desire or are not able…” The motion was seconded by Sawatzke and carried 5-0 to approve the following schedule for Christmas Eve:
1. County Offices will be closed to the public starting at Noon, Christmas Eve.
2. Employees wishing to take half a day off on Christmas Eve must use vacation, floating holiday, or no pay. Compensatory time or flexible scheduling is not an option that can be used for time off on Christmas Eve.
3. Employees who do not desire or are not able to take advantage of the time off will remain on their normal work schedule.
Due to the County’s observation of the Veterans Day Holiday on 11-12-07, the Human Services Board Meeting was moved to 11-13-07 at 1:00 P.M. The Owner’s Committee also is scheduled to meet on 11-13-07 at 1:00 P.M. and the agenda for that meeting could be a lengthy one. Heeter moved to cancel the Owner’s Committee Meeting on 11-13-07 and reschedule it for 11-14-07 at 1:00 P.M. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke and carried 5-0.
Norman said the County received notice of the “Forging New Partnerships Among Wright County Governments: Wright County’s Future’s Projects” which will be held on 11-14-07 at 5:30 P.M. at the Rockford Township Hall. The event is sponsored by the Wright County Mayor’s Association and the City Administrators. A more formal invitation is forthcoming. The invitation will be extended to the County Board, Wright County Department Heads, City Mayors and Staff, and Township Officials. Heeter moved to authorize attendance, seconded by Eichelberg, carried 5-0.
Russek announced that an AMC District V Meeting will be held on 10-18-07 in Freeport and more than two County Commissioners may be in attendance.
Allina OCC Med. $225.00
American Messaging. 790.18
Ameripride Linen and Apparel 317.14
Annandale Rock Products 3,992.53
Kirk Asplin Oil Co. Inc. 104.40
Barnes Distribution 457.91
Berntsen International Inc. 160.12
Boyer Truck Parts 223.54
Breezy Point Resort Inc. 294.01
Bristows Kawasaki/Polaris 1,028.85
Brock White Co. LLC 27,594.15
Dwayne Bruns 629.10
Buff ‘N’ Glo, Inc. 140.00
Buffalo Floral & Landscaping 160.00
Buffalo Hospital 2,244.00
City Buffalo 52,183.22
Building Fasteners 416.04
Cargill Inc.-Salt Division 98,455.93
Center Point Energy 2,373.57
Centra Sota Lake Region 21,120.98
Central MN Mental Health 225.00
Collins Brothers Towing 193.03
Contech Construction Proj. 9,221.15
Cottens’ Inc. 1,047.98
Culligan of Buffalo 500.00
Delano Rental Inc. 779.63
Design Electrical Cont. 214.06
Dingmann Marine & More 371.78
Dons Auto Service 124.77
E-Z Flush 705.20
Eng. Design Initiative 4,603.21
Debbie Ernst 298.46
Michael Even 164.76
Joyce Farrell 2,500.00
D. Fehn Gravel & Exc. 446,415.30
Final Touch Excavating 61,500.63
Fyles Exc. & Honey Wagon 175.00
Globalstar USA 494.05
Raymond Glunz 100.00
Gopher State One Call 156.80
Hancock Concrete Products 1,210.27
Pam Harvey 181.91
Hillyard Floor Care Supply 102.03
Alan Hoekstra 601.94
Holiday Inn- St. Cloud 220.20
Intereum Inc. 948.32
Interstate Battery Systems 304.35
Chris Jahnke 272.09
Cheryl Klingler 100.00
Greg Kramber 175.72
Lake Region Co-op Oil 184.29
Lakedale Communications 147.50
LaPlant Demo Inc. 1,033.25
Larson Allen LLP 42,750.00
Michael Laurent 199.88
Lawson Products Inc. 260.33
Little Falls Machine 654.38
M-R Sign Company Inc. 2,090.43
Marco Inc. 447.30
Martin Marietta Aggregates 835.73
Martin-McAllisters Cons. 2,100.00
Patrick Melvin 106.22
Menards - Buffalo 298.28
Midway Iron & Metal Co. Inc. 169.33
MN Co. Attorneys Assn. 315.00
Morrell Towing Inc. 116.08
Morrie’s Buffalo Chrysler 265.45
Morries Parts & Service Grp. 1,659.34
Mountain Stream Sports 106.57
Mumford Sanitation 129.87
Nagell Appraisal & Cons. 8,900.00
Nextel Communications 1,135.92
Office Depot 2,665.35
Olsen Companies 152.41
Omann Brothers Inc. 3,333.72
Otto Associates 391.00
David Pederson 518.80
Performance Office Papers 434.12
Genell Reese 261.42
Augie Riebel 125.00
Donald Schmidt 261.34
Specialty Turf & Ag 197.03
St. Joseph Equip.-Mpls 358.82
St. Mich.-Albert. ISD 885 184,800.00
Star West 100.00
State of MN-Office Enterpr 149.93
Super Express 217.26
Tires Plus 386.56
Tools Unlimited 558.70
Total Printing 203.95
United Locating Services 180.00
Judy Vanderlinde 1,243.65
Waste Management TC W 219.68
Janelle Webb 173.59
Wright Henn. Electric 558.00
32 Payments less than $100 1,860.83
Final total 1,029,641.13
The meeting adjourned at 11:25 A.M
Published in the Herald Journal Nov. 12, 2007.