Wright County Board Minutes

JANUARY 12, 2010
The Wright County Board met in regular session at 9:00 A.M. with Sawatzke, Mattson, Russek, and Eichelberg present. Commissioner Thelen was absent.
Eichelberg moved to approve the 1-05-10 County Board minutes, seconded by Russek. Mattson was in contact with Thelen and she supports the Committee appointments detailed in the minutes. The motion carried 4-0.
On a motion by Russek, second by Eichelberg, all voted to approve the Agenda as presented.
On a motion by Eichelberg, second by Sawatzke, all voted to approve the Consent Agenda:
1. Performance Appraisals: C. Nelson, Aud./Treas.; J. Kirscht, Bldg. Care; K. Hoyne, A. Myren, M Rhodes, Sheriff.
2. Voluntary Leave Without Pay Report, 4th Quarter, 2009.
3. O/T Report, Period Ending 12-25-09.
4. City of Buffalo Retrofit Lighting Rebate, $664.00.
1. 2010 Tobacco License Renewals: Lake Center Bar & Grill (Corinna Township); Hawk’s Sports Bar & Grill (Monticello City); Clark Gas (Montrose City); Red Vest Bar & Grill (Rockford City); Up The Creek Grill (Silver Creek Township); St Michael Liquors (St Michael City).
Bob Hiivala, Auditor/Treasurer, brought forth an update on the sales tax audit. Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, said the issue was discussed by the Board in December, 2009. Since that meeting, Asleson has completed additional research on the audit. One area of the appeal includes whether sales tax should be paid on the aerial photography product purchased electronically from a vendor headquartered in Colorado. Another area of the appeal relates to the 800 MHz System and the purchase of the Dispatch console and furniture for the Law Enforcement Center. Asleson plans to meet with the Information Technology Director to further discuss the 800 MHz portion. Two methods of appeal are available, formal and informal. The County can select to work directly with the Department of Revenue (informal) or the Minnesota Tax Court (formal). Asleson recommends the informal appeal route. He was informed that if the problem is simple, the matter could be resolved promptly. If the matter is not resolved, the appeal can move to the Minnesota Tax Court. The filing deadline is 1-18-10. Discussion moved to what approach the County should take on payment of the claim associated with the audit. One option would be to pay the entire claim of approximately $60,000 and request a refund if the County is successful in lobbying for the rebate. Another option would be to pay all but the $34,000 that is being appealed. If the County does not pay the $34,000 at this time and is unsuccessful in obtaining the rebate, interest on any unpaid balance will be due. The 2009 interest was calculated at 5%. Russek moved to approve payment of Schedule A of the sales tax audit (portion which is not being appealed). The motion was seconded by Eichelberg. Sawatzke noted that although interest will accrue at 5% on the unpaid portion, the County is earning interest on these funds. The motion carried 4-0. Payment will be made on an Auditor’s claim.
The December Revenue/Expenditure Guidelines were presented. Hiivala said at the next Board Meeting, he will bring forth a recommended meeting date for a Budget Committee Of The Whole Meeting to review year-end reports. Hiivala stated 2009 finished in a favorable manner, specifically for the General Fund, even with the extra payroll period in 2009, the loss of County Program Aid from the State, and significant losses of revenue in land records. All of these items were offset by other revenues.
The claims listing was discussed. Lee Kelly, Special Projects Administrator, referenced claims on Page 11, Klatt True Value Electric ($6.39) and M&M Bus Service Inc. ($118.01). The claims are coded to the Parks Budget, Vehicle Maintenance. Kelly thought the claims may be incorrectly coded and should possibly be funded from the Repairs and Maintenance line item. Hiivala will consult with the Parks Administrator on the correct line item that should fund these purchases. He stated that departments pay for items based upon where the funds were budgeted. Russek moved to approve the claims as listed in the abstract, subject to audit. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg and carried unanimously.
Capt. Gary Torfin, Jail Administrator, requested approval of the 2010 Jail Medical Service Contract with Allina, dba Buffalo Correctional Services, and to sign a letter of approval for subcontracting of medical direction and physician services. The letter of approval reflects that the County agrees to Allina subcontracting with EPPA (Emergency Physicians Professional Association) and Buffalo Hospital. The 2009 Contract rate was $14,250/month ($171,000 annually). The 2010 Contract rate is $16,893/month ($202,716 annually). This reflects an 18.5% increase of $31,716. Torfin said that approximately four months ago, Dr. Lick (EPPA) explained to him that the organization was not being reimbursed enough to cover costs and that the County should anticipate an increase in the contract. EPPA had not received an increase since entering into the contract with Allina. Torfin said the majority of the Contract increase relates to the costs associated with the EPPA physicians and increases in nursing wages. Eichelberg questioned when Torfin became aware of the increase. Capt. Torfin explained that he was informed there would be a significant increase when he met with Dr. Lick. However, the Contract is through hospital management and Dr. Lick is not involved. Discussion followed on other sources for providing Jail medical services. Capt. Torfin stated there are alternatives. Sherburne County is working with a vendor but they obviously have a larger facility. He was unsure whether Wright County would be able to obtain services for less than the current rate. He felt the current arrangement with Allina Hospital and EPPA Physicians is probably the best situation. The Jail is able to contact EPPA by phone if anything arises. Capt. Torfin noted that Allina has informed the on-call nurses that they will not be paid, but the nurses provide the services requested. Sawatzke said his impression is that Allina and EPPA are providing this as a community service. Sawatzke asked whether Allina and EPPA would be upset if the County were to seek out alternative care. Capt. Torfin did not feel so. When the Contract was entered into, they were reluctant due to the issues with their legal department on whether they should even provide the service. It is outside of the scope of their regular business. Because of their accreditation, they would rather not be a party to this; however, Capt. Torfin said they have done a great job of providing service. Eichelberg moved to approve the 2010 Jail Medical Service Contract with Allina, dba Buffalo Correctional Services, and to sign a letter of approval for subcontracting of medical direction and physician services. The motion was seconded by Russek. It was the consensus that Capt. Torfin will research the availability of other vendors for review and discussion next year. Sawatzke said the last time this was done, there were not many vendors to choose from. With the given economy, he felt that a clinic might find this as a source for additional revenue. Capt. Torfin referenced the past contract the County held with Preferred Correctional Medical Team to provide the service. He hopes that the County will select a provider that is substantial enough to stay in business. The motion carried 4-0.
Brian Asleson, Chief Deputy Attorney, presented a claim to Stanley E. Held, DVM, for services provided as a Hearing Officer. On 12-09-09, three dogs were seized on a property near Annandale by the Federated Human Societies and the Sheriff’s Office. Prior animal seizures in the County have included an actual search warrant signed by a judge. This was not done in this case, as it was believed the animals could die without intervention. This is an allowable action. By Statute, the owner of the dogs can request a hearing in front of a hearing officer. Dr. Held, a retired Veterinarian, agreed to serve as the Hearing Officer. The hearing was held at the end of December, and Dr. Held ruled that the animals should not be returned to the owners. There was no appeal to the ruling and the appeal time to that decision has expired. Statute reflects how the costs of caring should be handled while the animals are seized, but it does not specifically address the hearing costs. Asleson will research whether the costs can be charged to the owner of the dogs, but felt it may be a difficult task to collect. Eichelberg moved to approve payment of the claim to Stanley E. Held, DVM, for $195.00, to be funded from Budget 100, Professional Services. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke. Asleson said that at their next meeting, the County Board will review adoption of the Dangerous Dog Ordinance. The Ordinance has been drafted to reflect that the dog owner is responsible for the hearing costs and any other costs. This was done to close the gap in Statutes. The motion carried 4-0.
Sara Chur, U of M Regional Director, introduced Nick Neaton, U of M Extension 4-H Program Coordinator. Neaton recently joined the U of M Extension Service. Chur said Neaton is a positive addition to the office and feels the Extension Office is very well staffed. Neaton provided an update on various 4-H Programs and discussed upcoming activities. The 4-H Program has over 500 members. His goal for next year is to increase participation levels by 5%, and he is seeking ways to promote 4-H in the community. Neaton extended thanks to the County Board for their continued support of the Program. He viewed funding by the County as not just an expenditure but an investment. He spoke highly of youth involved with 4-H and felt that the monies invested may prevent fewer costs in the future associated with Jail and Court fees. This was provided as an informational item.
Greg Kramber, Assessor, provided an update on Green Acres and 2a/2b. Kramber said the purpose of the update is to provide the Board with an overview of the 2008 changes, the 2009 changes, and various options taxpayers have for their land. As part of Statute, the County is required to send out information on the 2009 law changes. Information will be posted on the County’s website. He hopes the public will take the time to read the information on these updates prior to calling the Assessor’s office. He estimated 800-1000 man hours spent last year assisting the public after the mailing was sent. He hopes the information mailed will answer some of the questions.
Kramber said that Green Acres was established in 1967 as an attempt to equalize tax burdens among farmers in Minnesota. Land owned that was in a more desirable location or surrounded by water was valued higher than land in outstate Minnesota not affected by those influences. Green Acres tax values are paying a lower value, similar to Ag tax values, with the intent of having similar values throughout the State. Wright County first implemented the Green Acres program in 1971-1972. Title companies and farmers were aware and familiar with how the program worked and benefited from it. In 2007, the Legislative Auditor created a report on Green Acres. The report reflected how Green Acres effectively equalized tax burdens among Minnesota farmers. In that aspect, the program met its goal. They felt the program fell short in that some counties had not implemented the program and there may have been property owners who could have qualified. They also felt some property owners were receiving benefits when they maybe should not have. Kramber said Wright County always tried to error on the behalf of the taxpayer. Information was reviewed on a quarterly basis. The Assessor’s Office did their best to administer the program for many years.
Below is a summary of the 2008 Green Acres Law Changes (no longer valid):
1. Only productive land would qualify for Green Acres unless the non-productive land was grandfathered into the Green Acres program.
2. Non-productive land would qualify for Green Acres if the property was transferred, or any name change was made to the ownership of the property. Non-productive land would be removed from the Green Acres program and deferred taxes would be due.
3. Any land enrolled in CRP, RIM or any conservation program was considered non-productive land.
4. Non-productive land that was transferred or withdrawn from the Green Acres program after May 1, 2008 required deferred taxes for the prior seven years to be paid. Taxes on any property withdrawn from the Green Acres program would be taxed at its market value after it was removed from the program.
5. Non-productive land could be partially or totally withdrawn from the Green Acres program prior to May 1, 2008 requiring a payback of the prior three years instead of seven years. Taxes on any property withdrawn from the Green Acres program would be taxed at its market value after it was removed from the program.
6. Any productive land that was removed from the Green Acres program would require a payback of deferred taxes for the prior three years.
Below is a summary of the 2009 Green Acres Law Changes:
1. A transfer of property to a spouse, son, daughter, or a trust shall not be considered a sale and does not require any payback of deferred taxes or removal of Green Acres on non-productive.
2. Productive land will continue to be in Green Acres for qualifying landowners. Any land enrolled in CRP, RIM, or a conservation program is considered productive land.
3. Prior to May 1, 2010, any land withdrawn from Green Acres would not require a payback of deferred taxes on non-productive land, but taxes would be calculated on the market value in future assessments.
4. Non-productive land can be grandfathered into Green Acres until the 2013 assessment, unless it is sold or removed from Green Acres. The deferred taxes for the prior three years would then become due.
5. If a property is sold prior to 2013, any non-productive land would be removed from Green Acres and any deferred taxes on the non-productive land for the three prior years would be due.
6. For the 2013 tax assessment year, any non-productive land still in Green Acres would be removed from the program and a payback of deferred taxes for the prior three years would be due.
7. Non-productive land may be eligible for enrollment in a new Rural Preserve property tax program, which provides a property tax benefit similar to Green Acres to property owners with 10 or more acres of contiguous land.
Kramber said there are other programs that have been developed for 2b, non-productive land. The Legislature has created multiple programs for land no longer covered by the program it was in. Some land will qualify for programs and some will not.
The Rural Preserve Program provides property tax relief for qualifying owners of rural vacant land in areas where the market value of the land is being affected by development pressure, sales of recreational land, or other factors. Applications are not available at this time but will be by May, 2011. Class 2b rural vacant land that was grandfathered into Green Acres for the 2010 assessment or that is part of an agricultural homestead and is covered by an approved conservation management plan may be eligible for this Program. Applications are made to the County Assessor and the enrolled acres must:
• have been enrolled in Green Acres prior to enrollment in Rural Preserve; or be part of an agricultural homestead;
• be at least 10 acres in size;
• be covered by a conservation management plan developed by an approved plan writer;
• not be enrolled in Green Acres, Open Space, or SFIA;
• have no delinquent property taxes owed on the land; and
• be subject to a recorded covenant for a minimum of 10 years.
Kramber explained that for those property owners that have land that qualifies for the Rural Preserve Property Tax Program, their management plan will need to be approved by either the SWCD or another designated group. The management plan, recorded covenant, and any supporting documents must be submitted to the Assessor’s Office. The application is filled out by the County Assessor. The Assessor’s Office will then make a determination on whether the property meets the requirements and classification. Applications must be filed by May 1st for the next year. The first year the program will be available is for taxes payable 2012.
The Sustainable Forest Incentive Act allows annual payments to be made to enrolled owners of forested land as an incentive to practice long-term sustainable forest management. To enroll, the following requirements must be met:
• Own 20 or more contiguous acres of land in Minnesota, of which at least 50 percent is forested.
• There are no delinquent property taxes owned on the land prior to enrolling, and the taxes remain current while enrolled in the program.
• The land must have an active forest management plan in place that was prepared by an approved plan writer within the past ten years. The plan writer must be approved by the Department of Natural Resources. All management activities prescribed in the plan must meet the recommended timber harvesting and forest management guidelines created by the Minnesota Forest Resources Council. A complete copy of the plan must be made available to the Department of Revenue upon request.
• The property owner must certify that the land is not enrolled in Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM), Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Green Acres, Ag Preserves, or 2b Managed Timberland.
• The enrolled acres of land cannot be used for residential or agricultural purposes.
• The landowner must agree to be enrolled in the program for a minimum of eight years. The land does not drop out at the end of eight years. To withdraw, a request must be made to the Commissioner of Revenue. The withdrawal process takes four years.
The Class 2c Managed Forest Land program. This property classification, enacted in 2008, provides a reduced class rate of 0.65 percent to forested property that is subject to a current forest management (stewardship) plan and that meets other requirements. There is no minimum term of enrollment; property will receive the reduced class rate as long as it is enrolled and continues to meet the necessary requirements. To qualify for the Class 2c Managed Forest Land program, the property must meet the following conditions:
• Have at least 20 eligible acres of forested land (can only enroll up to 1,920 acres Statewide);
• Have a forest management plan that is registered with the DNR and less than 10 years old;
• Cannot be used agriculturally;
• Cannot include property that is enrolled in the Sustainable Forest Incentive Act (SFIA) program, CRP, CREP, RIM, or the Green Acres Program.
The 20-acre requirement is based on the aggregate of all eligible land on contiguous parcels, not a parcel-by-parcel basis. Class 2c managed forest land property does not receive homestead benefits. Applications are available from the County Assessor’s Office. Applications must be made by May 1st to qualify for Class 2c for the current assessment year, taxes payable the following year.
Mattson asked whether Green Acres will be discussed during the upcoming Legislative Session. Kramber said he was unsure. A public meeting was held recently by Representative Mary Kiffmeyer and was attended by representatives of the Department of Revenue, DNR, BWSR, SWCD, and other associated parties of these programs. Comments made at that meeting were that things should be addressed to make it easier for the property owners to understand all the issues with covenants, and all of the issues of costs and procedures to apply for the program. Kramber said the Wright County Assessor’s Office is concerned with the volume of questions that will arise on the program. Many property owners were affected with the 2008 changes and many calls were received after the mailing went out explaining those changes. Kramber testified on Green Acres three times last year at the Capital at the request of local Legislators. Russek said at the SWCD Meeting last evening, they discussed the fact that a professional will have to fill out the forms. They questioned the availability of an experienced forest land person to fill out the application. Russek said this is a good example of when a system is not broken, why fix it. He was unsure why the State stepped in and made it more complicated than it was. Russek stated none of the County’s delegates or senators supported the changes. He said Kerry Saxton, SWCD, is concerned with the workload associated with preparing the necessary forms. Kramber said the Green Acres Program is not easy for the County to administer. The changes have resulted in a tremendous amount of time and energy, not to mention the frustration on the part of the taxpayer. Kramber said the mailing will be sent today explaining the changes to the program. Most of the information was not received until late fall. It took time to work through the legislation to develop information that could be provided to the public to explain the situation. The discussion at today’s Board Meeting was provided as an informational update to the County Board.
Wayne Fingalson, Highway Engineer, requested approval of a resolution for final acceptance for the CSAH 37/119 Safety Improvement Project, Contract #0903, with Knife River Corporation, North Central, of Sauk Rapids, Minnesota and to authorize final payment of $5,020.54. Sawatzke moved to adopt Resolution #10-03, seconded by Russek, carried 4-0 on a roll call vote.
Fingalson presented the minutes of the Five-Year Highway/Bridge Improvement Meeting held on 11-10-09. At today’s County Board Meeting, Russek moved to accept the minutes. The motion was seconded by Eichelberg and carried 4-0:
Fingalson announced that the purpose of the meeting was to explain the needs, the funding, and the proposed plan for future highway/bridge improvements. Additionally, this is an opportunity for the Board to obtain input from the public in considering changes or additions to the current plan.
Fingalson played a video presentation, “Roads & Loads – Finding a Balance,” which explained the importance of building roads to the strength necessary to support a healthy commerce and the importance of regulating traffic weight with a consistent standard on roads that cannot withstand heavy loads. After the video, he explained that Wright County has 408 miles of County State Aid Highways and 108 miles of County Roads, all of which are paved. Funding for maintenance and construction is available from a number of sources including gas tax, motor vehicle tax, and the local levy. Fingalson explained that Wright County has benefited in the past from federal funding, but those funds are now decreasing for Wright County, and the county has had to borrow from future state aid allotments in order to meet the current needs. He also announced that the CSAH 8 overlay south of Waverly was a 2009 Construction Excellence award winner for its smooth ride.
Hawkins reviewed projects that have been recently completed by the Wright County Highway Department, and Labo briefly explained the importance of pavement management and how delays in proper maintenance can lead to more costly remedies.
The proposed Five-Year Plan, as developed by the Highway Department staff, was presented. [Attachment B], and Fingalson explained that it is Wright County’s goal to complete 25 miles/year of overlay. He reviewed the proposed projects and indicated that the overlay projects are generally grouped in one area of the county each year to help keep the cost as low as possible.
Projects for 2010 include reconstruction on 2.3 miles on the northern segment of CSAH 12 (south of TH 25). The upcoming CSAH 12 project will be in two portions, with the City of Buffalo responsible for that portion in the city limits and Wright County responsible for the other portion. State aid will be the primary funding source for both projects. A total of 26.73 miles of overlays in the southwest portion of Wright County are planned and include segments of CSAHs 1, 6, 21, 30, and 7 and CR 153 at an estimated cost of just over $5 million. Approximately $1.8 million will come from state aid sources. Money has also been made available for some dynamic signing, which will be installed at problem intersections and along a curve area that seems to draw crashes.
Projects for 2011 include reconstruction to a one-mile stretch of CSAH 38 by and in the City of Annandale, which will add up to over $1 million. A number of overlays have been identified in the Buffalo area, including segments of CSAHs 12, 34, and 35, and CRs 117 and 147, for a total overlay of 22.84 miles and an estimated cost of $3.8 million, which will be covered entirely by local funds. The CSAH 40 Bridge will be replaced, three-quarters of which will be federally funded. Removal of the CSAH 75 Bridge over the railroad tracks near the nuclear plant (if approved by the Railroad) will be covered by state aid regular funds. Hopefully, the railroad will allow an at-grade crossing in this location as there is traffic on the tracks only about once every four years.
Projects for 2012 include reconstruction of 6.25 miles of CSAH 3 south of Cokato to the south county line, and costs of $6.7 million will be covered by state aid funds. Proposed overlays in the northwest portion of Wright County include segments of CSAHs 2 and 75 and CRs 123, 128, and 143 for a total overlay of 25.43 miles and an estimated cost of nearly $4 million, all of which will be funded by local monies.
Projects for 2013 include reconstruction of 3.7 miles of CSAH 12 (TH 55 north to CSAH 37) and 1.00 mile of CSAH 18 (MacIver Avenue to CSAH 22), for a total cost of just over $4.7 million, all of which will be covered by funding from state aid and the City of St. Michael. Proposed overlays in the eastern portion of Wright County include segments of CSAHs 10, 18, 33, 20 and CRs 112, 119, and 133 for a total overlay of 24.0 miles and an estimated cost of $3.4 million, most of which will be funded by local monies. An overlay on CSAH 20 at an estimated cost of $115,000 is scheduled in the City of Rockford. The CSAH 35 Bridge, between CSAHs 3 and 4, is proposed for replacement at a cost of $1 million, all of which could be funded by both federal and state funds, but so far the attempt to gain federal funds has been unsuccessful.
Projects for 2014 include reconstruction of 2.6 miles of CSAH 6 (CSAH 37 to TH 55) at a cost of $2.6 million, all of which is expected to be covered by state aid monies. Proposed overlays in the central and northern portion of Wright County include segments of CSAHs 7, 38, 35 and CRs 109 and 132 for a total overlay of 21.4 miles and an estimated cost of $3.5 million, all of which will be funded by local monies.
Question/Answer Period The meeting was opened up for comments from the Cities, Townships, and the public.
Tom Darkenwald, Otsego City Council Member and Brent Larson, Assistant City Engineer, asked that another project be considered for inclusion in the Five-Year Plan. [Attachment C] There is a portion of CSAH 37 just west of TH 101 where the amount of traffic and poor sight distance are causing safety problems, including fatalities. The city would like to have this section of roadway included for improvements as soon as possible to help accommodate the traffic that will be generated by future development. Fingalson explained that dynamic signing (flashing chevrons when traffic approaches) will be installed at one of the sharp curves on CSAH 37, just east of Albertville, where there have been fatalities. City officials asked if dynamic signing could also be installed at the next curve to the north. Signing at the other curve will depend on the funding that is available.
City of Maple Lake
Fingalson explained that he received a letter from the City of Maple Lake outlining their highway-related construction needs. *Attachment D+ These requests include consideration for upgrades for portions of the city’s storm sewer, improvements to drainage in certain areas, some utility and sidewalk upgrades, and the addition of turn lanes at Oak Avenue (CSAH 8) and TH 55. They are also requesting that traffic calming options be considered for an area on CSAH 37 near the high school. Fingalson said that he has not had the opportunity to review these requests very thoroughly, but when CSAH 7 is reclaimed and overlaid next year, some of these requests might be incorporated at that time.
Larry Kruse, Albertville City Administrator, thanked the County Board for their willingness to work with the city on the proposed I-94/CSAH 19 project. Albertville has already been awarded $5.44 million for this improvement project and they are working with a task force, which includes two commissioners (Sawatzke and Eichelberg) and county highway staff, to help identify additional funding sources. He also commented that he has been working in city government for over 25 years, and from his perspective, the county highway staff does an excellent job and Wright County can be proud of the job they do working with the local people.
Wally Odell, resident of Otsego, explained that he has been working with Darkenwald Companies for years and has been involved in many different areas. He referred to an interregional corridor study that the state conducted on I-94 from 494/694 in Maple Grove out to Collegeville. He said that this was to be designated as a high speed interregional corridor, and priorities were to be set regarding funding, mobility, and safety. Other areas were also identified, but he has seen no progress. Odell commented that he would like to see Wright County find a way to help coordinate efforts to improve the safety on I-94. Fingalson said that Mn/DOT has applied for funds to improve the area from Maple Grove to Albertville, and the County Board passed a resolution in support of funding and they have submitted a request for federal funding. Plans are not yet on the drawing board, but preliminary plans are currently being drawn up by Mn/DOT. Tom Darkenwald said that Wright County, together with the I-94 Coalition, submitted a TIGER grant for $90 million for three lanes on both sides of I-94 from Maple Grove to Albertville. The coalition went out to Washington D.C. and met with Representatives Bachmann, Paulson, and Peterson. They submitted a resolution of support, and representatives from Monticello, Otsego, Albertville, and St. Michael were there, including Larry Kruse and Mark Weigle. They asked for high priority project funding, or Tier Two funding for money that didn’t get used in Tier One. Representative Oberstar told them that this passed in the House but has been bogged down in the Senate. He is hopeful of getting some more funding by the end of this year or next year from the high priority project funding. A number of communities already support this, and their support is much appreciated. Sawatzke said that it is fair to say that Wright County has been very supportive of the project. He agreed with the comments made by Odell and said that Wright County will continue to provide assistance when they can. He asked to be informed if other opportunities to assist become available.
Steve Bot, St. Michael City Engineer, expressed his appreciation to Wright County, the highway staff, and especially to Fingalson and Hawkins for their work on the former Five-Year Plan. Many things have been accomplished, and the CSAH 19 reconstruction project is a crown jewel of which they can all be proud. He praised the work of Josh Wilson, Wright County’s inspector on the job, for his ability to work with many different people and tricky situations. He helped the whole project go well. Bot also expressed his appreciation for the new Five-Year Plan and said that he was happy to see the planned continuation of some projects that haven’t made it to the construction phase yet and is happy to see that the local funding has been stepped up.
Casey Darkenwald, resident of Otsego and landowner and developer in the area, expressed his support of the proposed I-94/CSAH 19 interchange and commented that this will affect St. Michael, Albertville, and Otsego. He said that though the outlet mall has 430,000 square feet of commercial space and is a very successful retail outlet, having only one way in and out of the mall is a safety concern of his. He proposes that a second access be approved for the west end of the outlet mall, and maybe this can be incorporated as part of an overall project. Currently, over five million vehicles visit the mall each year.
Tracy Janikula, resident of Woodland Township, said that she is excited about the upcoming improvements planned for CSAH 30. She also asked about the improvements that are scheduled for CR 10 for 2013 and said that she had some concerns about an area where the road is cupped and collects water when it rains, which can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. She asked if signs could be posted warning drivers about this possibility so that they could take extra precautions when driving in that area during rainfall. Those who live in the area are aware of this problem, but those unfamiliar with the roadway would be better able to avoid that danger if they are warned. Fingalson said that he would look into this and see what can be done. Sawatzke agreed that this could be a significant issue, especially for those who are not from the neighborhood. Fingalson thanked Janikula for bringing this to his attention.
Fingalson said that he will bring this proposed Five-Year Plan before the County Board within the next two to three weeks for formal acceptance. Sawatzke thanked everyone for their attendance and participation and complimented the highway staff on a job well done.
(End of Five-Year Highway/Bridge Improvement Meeting Minutes)
A Transportation Committee Of The Whole Meeting was held on 12-15-09. At today’s County Board Meeting, Russek moved to approve the minutes, seconded by Sawatzke, carried 4-0. The minutes follow with discussion at today’s County Board Meeting reflected in italics:
Review 5-Year Plan
Fingalson handed out a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that was given at the November 10, 2009 public meeting. He had previously distributed to Board member the meeting minutes of that meeting.
• Fingalson reminded the Commissioners that Dan Brannan from Mn/DOT had attended a TCOTW meeting in early June 2009 to talk about speed zoning, particularly in that area on CSAH 37 just north of the Maple Lake High School.
Since that meeting, Cordell and Fingalson met with Linda Hruby (Maple Lake City Clerk) and Mark Redemske (Superintendent of Maple Lake Schools) and looked at accesses to the high school. Redemske asked the County to take a look at the traffic after school was in session and when after-school activities had begun. This group met in July, and Redemske indicated that he was concerned about the entrance/exit on the north side of the high school that the students would be using. Morning hours were not as big a concern as the afternoon hours, since most vehicles would be entering the school lots from the west by making a right turn from CSAH 37. He was more concerned about how the driveway would work when school was released in the afternoon and students would make a left turn to go west onto CSAH 37. Cordell concentrated on that time of day once school was in session (October 21) and counted 54 vehicles leaving the lot that day. Fifty one vehicles turned left and three turned right. During that time, 47 additional vehicles were traveling east/west on CSAH 37, with 18 eastbound and 29 westbound. The longest queue waiting to enter CSAH 37 during that time was six cars, and Cordell said that the students were patient while waiting to get onto CSAH 37 and did not take chances. It was very uneventful. All those who wanted to leave after school was out were able to do so over a time span of 10 minutes. After that, there were no more vehicles coming out and there were no problems. He reported his finding to both the school and the city. Fingalson added that the original request from the city council was for a reduced speed limit, but there doesn’t appear to be the need for this as the current conditions are working well. Lower speed limits can sometimes be set in school zones, but that is usually because of the presence of sidewalks and pedestrian traffic, neither of which are present here. He said that there are some more options to consider if the city feels the current situation is not adequate.
Geyen said that she would like to know the other options. She has spoken with Superintendent Redemske about the traffic situation at the high school. Since the access to the school was removed from TH 55, the majority of parking is accessed from CSAH 37, and there are 200 parking spaces. One of the most congested times is right after the 7th and 8th grade footballs games are over, when all the cars leave at the same time, which is close to the time when many people are headed home from work. That lot is also used for the high school football games, although those games are usually later in the evening after the work traffic rush is over. She thanked Fingalson and Cordell for seeing that double yellow lines were painted on CSAH 37 from the intersection of CSAHs 37/8 eastward. Hopefully, this will help remind people not to pass the vehicle in front of them as they head east, and hopefully they’ll follow that rule. However, the city would still like to have the speed limit lowered in this area. Geyen said that many years ago it was 30 mph limit and asked under whose authority that was posted. Cordell said that there were some instances in the past where cities posted speed limits that were not authorized, but those had to be changed. He does not recall a 30 mph speed limit on CSAH 37. She also asked for an explanation of why CSAH 8 has a 30 mph speed limit in town and CSAH 37 does not. Cordell explained that CSAH 8 is more residential with curb and gutter and gives drivers the feel that it is narrower. There are multiple homes and they are spaced every 50-100 feet, which makes that area fall into the 30 mph traffic zone recommendation of Mn/DOT. CSAH 37 has wide open spaces and is in more of a rural setting. Mattson commented that there are lights on TH 12 by the Dassel/Cokato High School that flash during certain hours of the day. These were installed by Mn/DOT and work well. Fingalson said that this option is also being considered by the new Howard Lake/Waverly/Winsted High School, but the school has not gotten back to him yet. Cordell said that the flashing lights on TH 12 are tied to a timer which coincides with the lower speed limit, which is 35 mph when the lights are flashing. Mn/DOT, with information received from the school, dictated the times that these lights are to flash. Fingalson said that this same option was used on CSAH 35 out by the Buffalo High School a few ago, before the traffic signals were installed. These were paid for by the school district and the City of Buffalo. Flashing lights are also in use by the school on TH 24 in Clear Lake. A system like this costs about $10,000, but can be higher or lower depending on what features are included. If the HLWW school district decides to install these flashing lights, they will have to cover the entire cost because they are not in the city limits. He said that perhaps the City of Maple Lake and the Maple Lake School District could share the cost of flashing lights by the high school. Thelen asked if the period of time monitored by Cordell at the high school was a sufficient study, and Fingalson said that this was the time for which the superintendent expressed concern. When Mn/DOT did a spot speed study which included a time long enough to study 100 vehicles, District 3 recommended a speed limit of 50 mph on CSAH 37 by the high school, but the Central Office did not agree with that so the change was not made and the speed limits was kept at 55 mph. At this point, the minutes from the June 22, 2009 TCOTW meeting were reviewed. The recommendation made at that time was “that Wright County continue to work with the school district and the city. Superintendent Redemske said that he would like to sit down and explain what changes have been made to the entrance that might affect the decision for speed limits. Cordell said that traffic can be monitored when school opens up to consider both usage and types of conflict that are present.” This recommendation was followed and these actions have been taken.
Cordell explained that Mn/DOT is working on new guidelines for school zones, but these guidelines deal primarily with pedestrian traffic and did not include information about the flashing lights they installed by school zones. Mn/DOT is making additions to this guideline to include situations where there is not pedestrian traffic but where high school drivers are located in high speed areas, and it will talk about allowing a reduced speed limit with flashers during certain time periods. Sawatzke said that he thinks that flashing lights would help make a lowered speed limit more effective, especially because the lower speed limit will be in effect during a short time period and will not affect drivers throughout most of the day. If the problem is when the students are entering or leaving, then that’s when the change should be made. Fingalson agreed with Sawatzke and said that this is exactly why pedestrian activated flashers are very effective.
Funding a system like this would probably be the responsibility of the school and the city as it has been in other situations similar to this. Wayne said that nothing is more important than safety, and if the school district and city feel strongly that more should be done at this location, this would be one of the considerations. The county would be responsible for setting the speed limit if it is to be altered with the use of flashing lights. Cordell said that the county can reduce the speed by as much as 20 mph but cannot go lower than 20 mph. In this location, the speed could be changed to be no lower than 35 mph if flashing lights are added, but the final decision would be based on an engineering investigation. There was some discussion about having the ability to use a lower speed limit with flashing lights during some additional times, rather than just at the beginning and the end of the school day, such as at the end of football games and graduation.
A number of different features can affect the final cost of this option. The city and school district would be responsible for funding the installation and the on-going maintenance, but the county would contribute man hours in the planning stages. Thelen asked if changing landscape and additional residences could affect the future speed limit, and Fingalson said that accesses plus curb and gutter would both have an impact on that decision.
RECOMMENDATION: It was the recommendation of the TCOTW that the Maple Lake City Council and the Maple Lake School District decide whether they would like to have a “lowered speed limit when lights are flashing” system installed by the Maple Lake High School and whether they are willing to bear the full cost of the system; and if both issues are agreed to by these two entities, Wright County will support that decision. Geyen will report back to the County Board after she has talked with the school district. [Since this meeting, Wright County Highway Department staff looked closer at the new Mn/DOT guidelines and decided to install a school speed limit of 35 MPH “When Children are Present.”]
At today’s County Board Meeting, Fingalson explained that since the time of the Committee Meeting, they reviewed Mn/DOT Guidelines further and other projects they had worked on. They feel that the school speed limit of 35 mph and sign that reflects “When Children are Present” is appropriate. That sign has since been installed.
• The City of Maple Lake has identified improvements that they would like to make in the 2011 to 2019 timeframe. There is only one project that could be considered sooner, and that would be improvements to CSAH 8 (as it approaches TH 55 from the north) with the addition of turn lanes. This is an area where there are wider shoulders, but utilities poles would have to be moved. This could possibly be done next year by doing new striping, especially if work on CSAH 7 is going to be delayed. The city had identified this intersection improvement for 2011, but it might be possible to accomplish the goal by striping next year. It might be possible to narrow the driving lanes, because this is a lower speed area. The Highway Department will work with the city on this. Maple Lake is also looking at doing utility upgrades between 2015 and 2019. One substantial project would be the filling in of ditches and putting in storm sewers and gutters along CSAH 8 south of TH 55 to 1st Street, just north of the viaduct. This has been identified for 2015, which is beyond Wright County’s 5-Year Plan, but it could be put into the 10-Year Work Plan if the Board wants to do that. There is the potential of Municipal State Aid funds being available. The benefit to the city would be an improved urban design and the avoidance of standing water and culvert freeze ups. One disadvantage would be lack of snow storage, and a six or eight-foot shoulder might be needed. The city might also be interested in being pedestrian friendly with the addition of a sidewalk. Work on CSAH 7 (from 1st Street to the south city limits) was on the 5-Year Plan, but it has been moved to 2014 because the city wants to do some major utility work and it would be better to wait to redo the road when the underground work is completed. Hawkins said that the city is in the process of finalizing the CIP plan to pinpoint more solid datelines. No upgrades are planned for CSAH 7 through downtown until 2017, even though this section is in pretty poor shape. Mattson commented that there is an area just south of the viaduct that has a blind access. This was reviewed on the Mn/DOT video log, and Steve will see that branches get trimmed in order to help with the sight distance.
• Fingalson explained that the City of Otsego presented a letter through their assistant engineer and council member about a section of CSAH 37 just west of the recently reconstructed intersection at TH 101. This has been identified as a minor arterial roadway, and the sight distance and lighting is poor at the intersection of CSAH 37 and Quaday. There was a fatality at that intersection when a car turning east onto CSAH 37 did not see the motorcycle that was westbound. A westbound vehicle was turning onto Quaday and blocked the view of the vehicle turning onto CSAH 37, so the driver of that vehicle did not see the motorcycle, pulled out onto CSAH 37, and there was a collision between this vehicle and the motorcycle. Initially, before the improvements were made to TH 101, Otsego put in an entrance from CSAH 37 to a housing development (at the northwest corner of TH 101/CSAH 37) before they submitted their plat for review. Wright County, after the fact, agreed to allow that access on a temporary basis, but it was removed when the work on TH 101 was done. Now the access to and from the development is on Quaday, and traffic accesses CSAH 37 from Quaday. The city is asking for a speed and traffic study to determine the appropriate speed and the need for turn lanes at this intersection. If it is found that a turning lane is needed, then it could be put in and paid for by the city and the developer. Fingalson said that he and Hawkins have talked about this issue and the request for the improvement, but they feel that this should not be paid for by the county because the need for improvement is basically development driven. Otsego has suggested that the cost of improvement be shared by the city, the county, and the developer, each paying one-third of the cost. Fingalson said that he agrees with the need for improvement, but feels that it should be paid for by the developer, as has been done in other locations such as the Target store in Otsego. He said that this should not be added to the 5-Year Plan until the proposed development (on the west side of Quaday) is reviewed and a traffic study is completed. Sawatzke asked if the improvement would still be needed if the proposed development doesn’t occur, and Fingalson said that it wouldn’t be as necessary in that case. Hawkins said that Wright County would address this intersection when CSAH 37 is rebuilt, but that is not on any of Wright County’s plans at this time. Once the connection is made to CSAH 19 north of the outlet mall, more traffic will be generated and improvements to CSAH 37 might be necessary then, but conditions are probably adequate at this time. A traffic study will show what is needed, but until the new development goes in, a study won’t be needed. Fingalson said that he isn’t sure this intersection will meet warrants even if the development goes in. Steve commented that traffic seems to be moving fine when he’s been through there. There is a slight bump in the road, so it might be reasonable to install a ‘blind intersection’ sign. Sawatzke said that he would like to see the road improvement plans on the 10-Year Work Plan to acknowledge the communication from the City of Otsego and the developer, and Fingalson said that it could be put on the 10-Year Work Plan subject to development. Hawkins said that the usual process would be to see how much traffic there is now and then to see how further development affects traffic. It will be identified on the 10-Year Work Plan for the acknowledgement that this request has merit.
• A letter was sent to Wright County from John Darkenwald regarding the proposed I94/CSAH 37/CSAH 19 upgrades. Hawkins received a call from the city asking for authorization to schedule a bid date for improvements to CSAH 19 from CSAH 37 to 70th Street, even though the city is still waiting for appraisals. They have to meet the March 1 deadline for bidding. Meyer said that the micro-surfacing that was done in the summer of 2008 on CSAH 19 from CSAH 37 to past the outlet mall has a life of 10 years. It’s too bad the money was spent on that when now it is going to be replaced. Sawatzke commented that improvement on CSAH 19 would add millions of dollars in value to even one property. The border between Otsego and Albertville is 70th Street, but Hawkins said that he doesn’t know if Otsego is interested in being involved in this project for an extension of the improvements. More information will be available when the appointed task force (City of Albertville, Sawatzke, Eichelberg, Fingalson, and Hawkins) meets.
• Fingalson presented to the TCOTW a summary of both the 5-Year Plan and the 10-Year Work Plan. He pointed out to them that Wright County will be $4 million in the hole in state aid monies by the end of 2013. Local monies of $3.4 million will be needed in 2010, almost $5 million in 2011, and then close to $4 million in 2012. These proposed amounts include leaving eight-foot shoulders in the plans for CSAH 3. CSAH 37 could be added to the 10-Year Work Plan along with CSAH 6, CSAH 3, CSAH 12, and the Howard Lake by-pass. Mattson commented that he has not heard from anyone in a long time about the need for this by-pass. The Maple Lake project is already in there. One of the major changes would be to combine the proposed two-year project (2011 and 2012) for CSAH 3 (from Cokato to the south county line) into just one year, 2012. This would help the Highway Department catch up with the right-of-way work, too. Usually, the right-of-way acquisition is done in March of the same year as the project, which can put the office in a bind. Nothing is mentioned in this plan for an improvement to CR 147 at TH 55. Fingalson said that he is hoping for adoption of the Reauthorization Bill and hoping that, if passed, it will include money for TH 55 improvements at the intersections for both CR 147 and CSAH 32. Currently, the 10-Year Work Plan does not address the CSAH 19 project or the intersection that Darkenwald spoke to regarding the I94/CSAH 19 interchange. Often, cities follow the county activities and might be aware of the $1 million that is in the reserve fund, but currently, these projects are not listed. Fingalson said that it can be added now. Sawatzke said that he doesn’t see the benefit of adding it right now because it hasn’t worked its way up and they wouldn’t even know what numbers to put in, but it needs to be discussed.
Fingalson said that projects can be identified for federal funding at the next TCOTW meeting scheduled for January 6, 2010. Projects to be considered include a bridge on CSAH 35, just east of CSAH 3, and CSAH 6 from TH 55 south. They might be eligible for funds for 2014. Attempts have been made to get federal money for CSAH 3 south of Cokato, but it doesn’t rate very high. If Wright County is able to get federal money for the bridge on CSAH 35, funds would cover 80% of the cost, and hopefully, bridge bonding money would cover the remaining 20% of the cost.
Sawatzke said that there have not been many changes since the public meeting was held and commented that this is the fewest number of requests that has been submitted by cities and townships, probably due to the lack of growth and the sluggish economy. Fingalson said that six cities have also hit the 5,000 population mark and are no longer required to request funds through the County. There will be requests for at least two trail projects, one from Annandale and one from Hanover, and they will have to be ranked at the meeting on January 6.
Fingalson said that the Highway Department is proceeding with the safety plan as discussed at the meeting in November, and they have been putting together some preliminary segment maps with the help of the new sign technician.
Minutes from the public meeting regarding the County’s Five-Year Plan, from today’s TCOTW meeting, and from the scheduled TCOTW meeting on January 6 will be presented to the County Board for their approval on January 12, 2010.
(End of 12-15-09 TCOTW Minutes & discussion)
Fingalson presented a draft resolution to adopt the Five-Year Highway and Bridge Improvement Program. Russek moved to adopt Resolution #10-04, noting that it is subject to change. The motion was seconded by Sawatzke. Fingalson said the information will be placed on the County website. They will also develop material to be sent to the townships and it will be made available to the public. The motion carried 4-0 on a roll call vote.
Fingalson presented two draft resolutions relating to project nominations for Federal Transportation Funding. The projects were discussed at the 1-06-10 Transportation Committee Of The Whole Meeting. The proposed projects include: CSAH 6 (TH 55 to 30th St.), CSAH 33 (TH 55 to Jct 33 & 44), and CSAH 35 Bridge (#90697). The minutes of that meeting will be presented for Board approval on 1-26-10. The resolutions must be submitted by 1-15-10. Eichelberg moved to adopt Resolution #10-05, to submit the three projects as identified, seconded by Russek, carried 4-0 on a roll call vote.
The second resolution relates to the City of Hanover-Beebe Lake Regional Trail Enhancement Project. This is a joint project between the cities of Hanover and St. Michael. The City of Hanover is taking the lead on the project. Since Hanover has a population of less than 5,000, Wright County must serve as the sponsoring agency. The resolution reflects that Hanover assumes full responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the project. Eichelberg moved to adopt Resolution #10-06, seconded by Russek, carried 4-0 on a roll call vote.
Bills Approved
Aggregate & Ready Mix of Minn $425.00
Allina Health Systems 500.00
American Messaging 549.30
American Public Works Assn. 176.25
Ameripride Linen and Apparel 315.23
AMI Imaging Systems, Inc. 36,166.89
Ancom Communications Inc. 12,612.32
Aramark Correctional Serv. 6,393.67
Atrix International Inc. 2,480.61
Auto Glass Center Inc. 270.90
Bob Barker Co. 290.99
Barthels Auto Body 516.16
Beaudry Oil Co. 2,915.44
Shawna Bottiger 150.00
Boyer Truck Parts 116.39
BP Amoco 1,326.88
Buffalo Floral & Landscaping 200.00
Buffalo Hospital 1,224.90
City Buffalo 27,938.35
Cenex Fleetcard 806.17
Center Point Energy 804.14
Centra Sota Lake Region LLC 41,603.66
CenturyLink 330.30
Chief Supply 187.98
Climate Air 2,657.74
Commissioner of Transportation 345.00
Cottens Inc. 842.65
Pete Czech 119.99
Delano Sports Center Inc. 191.99
Department of Public Safety 8,430.00
Dingmann Marine & More LLC 203.21
Dustcoating Inc. 17,237.93
Dale Engel 775.00
Evident Crime Scene Products 486.50
Fastenal Company 303.02
Glock Inc. 260.77
Raymond Glunz 120.00
Hardings Towing Inc. 240.47
Holiday 12,526.19
Hr Specialist Employment Law 155.00
Interstate Battery Systems 192.27
Junction Towing & Auto Repair 249.02
Kaplan Professional Schools 6,050.00
Gary Kerber 375.00
Klein Heating and Cooling 327.00
Knife River 5,020.54
Kustom Signals Inc. 634.39
Lake Superior College 1,425.00
Larson Allen LP 13,250.00
Michael Laurent 180.46
Loberg Electric 46,937.41
M & M Bus Service Inc. 118.01
M-R Sign Company Inc. 231.30
Martin-McAllisters Consulting 1,200.00
Midland Corporate Benefits Svc. 997.75
MN Assoc. of Emerg. Managers 100.00
MN Counties Computer Coop 34,932.50
MN Co. Engineers Association 400.00
MN Department of Health 1,038.40
MN Onsite Wastewater Assn. 295.00
MN Recreation & Park Ass’n Inc. 183.00
Moen Reporting Services 417.30
Morries Parts & Service Group 158.40
Mpls. Community Tech. College 420.00
Mumford Sanitation 129.87
Nagell Appraisal & Consulting 6,600.00
Neopost Inc. 1,116.98
North American Salt Co. 31,349.20
Northeast Wisconsin Travel 390.00
Occupational Development Ctr 213.75
Office Depot 2,264.75
Precision Prints of Wright Co. 200.93
Frank Ramacciotti 100.00
Royal Tire Inc. 1,045.21
Russell Security Resource Inc. 3,886.92
Ryan Chevrolet 120.40
SHI International Corp. 983.25
Star Tribune-Subscriptions 243.88
Stearns County Sheriff 250.00
Greg Stonelake 125.00
Wanda Terrazas 225.70
Towmaster 237.71
Ultramax 2,545.00
United Parcel Service 112.51
University of Minnesota 430.00
Varitech Industries Inc. 14,428.13
Victor Township 598.00
Viking Industrial Center 125.04
Waste Management - TC West 2,907.35
West Payment Center 138.94
Winter Equipment Co. Inc. 123.27
Wright Co. Auditor Treasurer 1,000.00
Wright County Journal Press 270.04
Jim Wright 125.00
35 Payments less than $100 1,569.74
Final total $372,186.31
The meeting adjourned at 10:08 A.M
Published in the Herald Journal Feb. 8, 2010.

Return to Wright County Menu | Return to Government Table of Contents

Herald Journal
Stories | Columns | Obituaries | Classifieds
Guides | Sitemap | Search | Home Page