Board approves food shelf grant, Local Road Improvement Projects resolutions

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

At Tuesday's Watonwan County Board meeting, the board approved a grant for the remodeling of the new Watonwan County Food Shelf and multiple resolutions for Local Road Improvement Projects (LRIP).

The Watonwan County Food Shelf was able to purchase Mayberry Lanes through a grant, but work is needed inside of the former bowling alley. The current space for the food shelf is inside the Watonwan County Resource Center and is only 600 square feet. The new facility will be 6,000 square feet.

"Right now, people feel as though they don't even know where we're at," said Watonwan County Food Shelf Director Katherine Petty. "We typically see 75-80 families a month and we do expect with being more in the open that we will probably see an increase in families."

Petty estimates that the total cost of reconstruction will be approximately $54,368.98. Electric costs through St. James Electric are estimated at $6,820, with St. James Electric donating about 1/2 of their labor expenses.

The concrete floor and ramp will be a fiber mesh through Siem Construction, estimated at $26,696.60. The ramp is for the pallets of food that can set right into the storage area without requiring heavy lifting. The county will donate four bucket loads of fill for the floor as well.

The flooring in the front of the building—subfloor and Matt's Tile—is estimated at a combined $6,400.

The back wall and ceiling must also be closed in, with frame walls, spray foam, and sheetrock for a total of $13,110.

Finally, Hometown Sanitation provided a dumpster for demolition last week, which came out to $1,152.38.

Minnesota statutes allow the county to give a grant to the food shelf.

"My suggestion would be that the board would do a grant appropriation at $60,000 to the food shelf, and they're responsible for doing the bidding and all that," said County Auditor/Treasurer Kelly Pauling.

The county does have the available reserves for the grant.

On Feb. 19, the Watonwan County Food Shelf distributed 800 boxes of food to 705 families. Approximately 26,000 pounds of food were passed out within two hours.

The food shelf netted around $13,000, which it hopes to use for additional shelving.

Public Works Director Teal Spellman approached the board with six separate LRIP projects within the county.

The county serves as a "money funnel" and has no monetary obligations for the projects.

For each project, Spellman asked for the maximum amount of $1.25 million. Each project is its separate entity, so if two projects are approved by the state, the funding for one project will not affect the funding for another.

"You can submit 20 applications if you want, it's a maximum of $1.25 [million] per application," said Spellman.

Among the projects listed was a county project for Highway 10 project, from CSAH 12 to Highway 15. The estimated cost of the project is $1.4 million and already has federal dollars on it for safety.

"I am pursuing it on the route of regional significance category... if you apply for the safety one, you're kind of limited to only asking for the things that provide a safety benefit," explained Spellman. "Since it qualifies as a route of regional significance, I can do it under this one and can ask for the full $1.25 million.

"We're doing the CSAH 10 project whether we get the $1.25 [million] or not... but it would be nice to get the $1.25 million."

The city of Lewisville applied for two LRIP grants, one for the south side of the city and one for the north side to rebuild their roads.

"They have started but they could never afford to do it all," said Spellman. "They recently just spent $60,000 and did a block so they're trying to get the money to do that same fix but on a bigger scale."

The city of Darfur applied for the northeast section of its roads to be fixed. Nelson Township has requested a reconstruction of 710th Avenue, which was severely damaged by flooding. The township applied for FEMA funds but was turned down.

Riverdale Township is looking to install multiple culverts under 730th Ave.

In 2018, the state of Minnesota approved 52 total projects at a total of $34,692,700. The city of Odin was one of the recipients of state funds for the CSAH 21 project in 2019. Odin requested $500,000 for the project.

After approving the resolutions, the board held a lengthy discussion for a new crew lead/inspector position.

"This person could essentially be a backup technician for us," said Spellman. "A technician spot is one of the hardest spots to fill, ask any other county. This position would be a groomer for technical staff...  you're building your own technician." 

Many other counties in the district hold this type of position.

After a 30 minute discussion, the board passed the new position by a 3-2 vote but will hold off on advertising for the position.

"I'm just hoping that we get the right person," said commissioner Bill Miller.

The next Watonwan County Board meeting is scheduled for March 16.

Other items:

- Bills: general: $104,875.44

- Bills: road and bridge $7,554.04

- Approval to advertise for summer workers: two road/maintenance crew, one civil engineering technician intern

- Approval to advertise seasonal supplies (seal coat oil, rock)

- Approval to advertise for light equipment operator 

- Sheriff speeding grant- 2021 speed and aggressive driving special project.

- Board of Appeal and Equalization- June 14th at 6;30 p.m.