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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Watonwan County Board discusses capital improvement

  • Commissioners have the difficult task of weighing their wants against the needs of the county. Requests for new vehicles from the public works department will also add to the overall capital improvement expenses. More than one dozen vehicles are due to be replaced in 2014.
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  • The Watonwan County Board met during their regularly scheduled Tuesday, July 2 meeting.
    County Commissioners discussed a new capital improvement plan. Major expenses discussed included the Human Services renovation project at $850,000, courthouse improvements at $174,000, highway department capitol purchases, government information system (GIS) at $175,000 and ARMER tower equipment at $136,000.
    The costs the county board is committed to spending come in at about $1,160,000 for the Human Services, courthouse and ARMER tower projects.
    Commissioners also discussed investing in the GIS, but questioned the value of the project.
    "It's a discussion of value, is the value there for $175,000," said Commissioner Scott Sanders.
    There are added costs with the installation of a GIS with software upkeep and general maintenance.
    Commissioners have the difficult task of weighing their wants against the needs of the county. Requests for new vehicles from the public works department will also add to the overall capital improvement expenses. More than one dozen vehicles are due to be replaced in 2014.
    The total amount available under the capital improvement plan is about $2,077,468 per year. Watonwan County commissioners have committed to a projected capital improvement plan that comes in under that amount at about $1,470,000.
    The county will finance these projects in the capital improvement plan through a general obligation capital improvement plan and will pay the bond principal and interest payments through a debt service tax levy.
    Commissioners will continue to discuss the capital improvement plan during upcoming meetings.
    The Watonwan County Board met with Public Works Director Roger Risser following the capital improvement discussion.
    Risser reported to the county board that Assistant County Engineer Mike Banks plans to retire August 30. The county board accepted his retirement request and commended him for his years of service to the county. Banks was assistant county engineer for more than 40 years. He will exercise a phase retirement, working a maximum of 20 hours per week until the end of September.
    "Mikes been a great employee," said Risser. "He's walking away with a wealth of knowledge of the highway department."
    Risser then presented the final contract voucher from Civil Ag Group for shoulder widening. The cost of the voucher came in at a final cost of $28,393.51. The total project costs were more than $500,000. The board approved the voucher cost unanimously.
    Next on Risser's agenda was the presentation of proposals for determination of bituminous mix designs for potential cold-in-place recycling or emulsion stabilized full depth reclamation projects which will take place from 2014 to 2015 on several county roads.
    With a detailed engineering assessment, the county will be able to decide what type of project the repairing of these roads would be. If the county can use cold-in-place recycling to repair the roads, the county would save millions of dollars.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I think it's worth it to look at it," said Risser. "They may come back and say your pavement is so damaged you have to do full depth reclamation."
    The Watonwan County Board approved a bid from Braun Intertec at $24,550 to evaluate whether or not the roads will be eligible for the cheaper alternative of cold-in-place recycling.
    Also presented by Risser were quotes for roof rehabilitation at Odin Out-shop. The roof has been leaking and needs to be replaced. Two bids were received for the project from Schwickerts and Bargen Inc. The board approved the low bid from Schwickerts in Mankato at $11,450. The 1/60 mil membrane system holds a manufacturer's warranty of 10 years.
    The Watonwan County Board discussed adapting a $10 wheelage tax for every licensed vehicle in Watonwan County. The approximate number of vehicles registered subject to the wheelage tax in Watonwan County are about 11,400.
    This tax would generate $114,000 and would go directly to the road and bridge fund. The increase in $10 would be visible to individuals purchasing a vehicle license tab or tab renewal.
    The wheelage tax will be eligible to increase to $20 in 2018. The county board can vote to increase or keep the wheelage tax at the same rate at that time.
    The board has to notify the state about their intent by Aug. 1. Another option for the county will be to increase the sales tax for all items purchased within Watonwan County – though commissioners were less receptive of this idea. The county will discuss this increase of sales tax and wheelage tax at the next scheduled regular meeting.
    The Watonwan County Board approved an application for lawful gambling from Mike Shupe representing the Godahl Recreational Association. The license will cover both bingo and a raffles taking place Sept. 2.
    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is withholding the second half of score block grants in the amount of $55,950 because the county's solid waste management plan is no longer current.
    The county is working to fix the problems with the solid waste management plan in order to receive these funds. They are half done with the plan and looking toward finishing it by the end of September.
    Other Business:
    County Board approved minutes of June 17 and 18 meetings along with the board of equalization meeting minutes.
    A training request from Employment and Training Director Heidi Engel was approved unanimously. She will be going to Mankato for the South Central Workforce Partner Training Day at a cost of about $20 plus wages.
    The county will be proceeding without many of the small cities on the county map project.
    Watonwan County will be advertising a part-time TMT driver position.

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