County board approves bid for lake surveying and purchase of plow equipment

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

At Tuesday's Watonwan County Board meeting, the board passed a bid for lake surveys in the spring and summer, and the purchase of two plows and plow equipment. 

The last surveys were done in 2019 on St. James Lake, Kansas Lake, and Long Lake. 

Initial surveys on the lakes tested in 2019 came back negative.

"They do an aquatic vegetation survey to go through the lakes and see what's native vegetation out there and if there are any invasive species out there," said Chad Hildebrand, Soil & Water Conservation District Assistant Manager & County Ditch Inspector.

In 2020, Butterfield Lake and Fedje Lake were scheduled to be surveyed, but due to COVID-19, surveys were canceled.

All five lakes will be surveyed in 2021. The first round of surveying will be done in late May or early June. The second round will be done in August or September. The purpose of having two surveys is to identify if Curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus), Eurasian water-milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) grows, or any other invasive species are present in the water in the spring, and see where the invasive species have died by the fall.

"Then you can use the map and the data and go apply for the DNR grant to get funds for management, whether it be chemical or mechanical, and devise and plan," said Hildebrand.

Kyla Schlomann received three bids to do the surveys, and the county accepted a low bid from Endangered Resource Services for $14,900. Costs for the surveys are covered by a Lakes and Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) grant.

To identify whether invasive species are present, Endangered Resource Services will use one data point per acre in each lake surveyed. 

The board also passed a resolution to support the city of St. James' Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP) grant application for the upcoming 7th Street S./Ring Road Improvements Project. The project includes the reconstruction of 7th Street S. from 11th Avenue S. to 13th Avenue S. and from Ring Road to 13th Avenue S., and from 13 Avenue S. to 7th Street S.

Cities and townships can apply for grants but must be sponsored by the county.

"Basically we're like the money funnel," said Teal Spellman, Watonwan County Engineer & Public Works Director. "We get the money from the state to give to the city of St. James or whoever."

Also on the agenda for Spellman was a discussion on purchasing plow equipment that was tabled at the last meeting. The plow problem has stemmed from ongoing conversations about plowing around the gravel roads at Long Lake, and the correct type of plow to use for the gravel roads.

"If you're going along Long Lake and you're going around the gravel, that's where that [tilt] function comes in handy," said board member Dillon Melheim. "You have that one stretch of gravel there and you tilt your plow back, so you're not digging into the gravel, then you tip it back forward when you're on the blacktop. That's what that [tilt] function is used for—when you have half-gravel, half blacktop."

The board passed a motion to purchase two two-way plows with a tilt option for a total amount that is to be determined. One plow will be used on a new grader, and one will be used on a current grader.

The next county board meeting is scheduled for March 2.

Other items:

2021 ditch assessments

- bills general: $107,593.38

- bills road and bridge: $290,788.44

- credit cards: $6,355.73

- Fairgrounds lease- Brown County Poultry

- Solid Waste Haulers License to Affordable Tree and Landscape


- Satisfactory completion of probation period: Jody Anderson- Land Management

- Annual step movement: Kyla Schlomann

- Tentative agreement with highway union

- allow county employees to use sick leave to care for children in quarantine, retroactive to Feb. 1 through May 30