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Kandiyohi County sets hearing for Eagle Lake roadwork

WILLMAR -- Calling it the most controversial road project since the four-lane highway was put through Spicer, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners ag-reed Tuesday that another public meeting is needed to discuss proposals to realign County Road 9 on the east side of Eagle Lake.

The hearing is set for 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 in the community room of the Health and Human Services Building in Willmar.

An open house will begin at 4:30 p.m. to allow the public time to review maps and have one-on-one conversations with engineers from the Public Works Department about specific aspects of the alternate plans.

Until then, drawings will be fine-tuned in response to concerns expressed during a public meeting held last week, said Public Works Director Gary Danielson.

Because that meeting drew more people than expected, there weren't enough hand-outs and people didn't have enough time to talk to commissioners.

Danielson said the meeting next month will include a Powerpoint presentation that will clear up misconceptions about the proposals and will provide a more formal opportunity for people to publicly speak about the option they prefer.

There's "a lot of misinformation" and "assumptions" people have about each plan, said Commissioner Jim Butterfield, who said he also has questions about the alternate routes.

The proposals include two options to reroute traffic away from the densely populated lakeshore area to a cross-country route that would include building a new stretch of road through a farm field.

Another plan includes upgrading the road near its current alignment to urban standards with curb and gutter and a bike trail.

Those three plans are estimated to cost $4 million each.

It's possible that the curb and gutter plan could include assessments to affected property owners. Assessments had not been discussed before.

The final option, estimated to cost $100,000, is to simply resurface the road and add a bike trail.

Several commissioners have said they've received more phone calls and comments on the Eagle Lake road proposal than any other road project.

Danielson is recommending moving the road as the best way to increase safety. He cited traffic analysis reports that targeted this stretch of road as being dangerous because it's narrow, has poor sight distance, has numerous access points, has a relatively high speed limit -- which is set by state law -- and has had more run-off-the-road type accidents that other county roads.

Commissioner Dennis Peterson said the proposal "deserves another hearing" but said in the end, the final decision on what to do with the road will be up to the County Board.

-0-By Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- The new leader of Minnesota's 31-school higher education system told his bosses Tuesday that tough choices are ahead and predicted dramatic changes.

"The greatest risk we face is the risk of business as usual," Chancellor Steven Rosenstone told the MnSCU Board of Trustees, which governs state-run technical and two-year community colleges as well as four-year universities.

It was Rosenstone's first meeting with the board after taking the system's top job Aug. 1.

"We need to redesign the way we do things," he said in a 44-minute speech, promising that details will come beginning in November.

The new chancellor, a former University of Minnesota administrator, promised to be aggressive about providing a quality education and containing costs.

President Edna Szymanski of Minnesota State University-Moorhead told the board "we are excited" about the new chancellor. "We accept the chancellor and we will follow."

Rosenstone emphasized the need to help areas outside of the Twin Cities.

"We cannot forget greater Minnesota," he told the board. "Some areas of greater Minnesota are at risk as a result of population declines, making it difficult for many businesses to find skilled workers."

MnSCU needs to find a way to provide graduates to those firms, he added.

Rosenstone called for MnSCU to work more closely with others around the state, such as those businesses that lack well-trained workers.

President Kevin Kopischke of Alexandria Technical College said one need he sees from a rural perspective is making sure that every student who is academically prepared be able to take MnSCU classes, which are held in all parts of the state. The other state-run system, the University of Minnesota, has just five campuses.

President Richard Davenport of Minnesota State University-Mankato said one problem is that the number of rural Minnesota students is dropping while school costs remain the same.

Rosenstone gave the board a framework that could be followed as the system looks toward the future:

- Ensure an "excellent education" for all Minnesotans. Accessibility is important, he said, including more emphasis on retraining workers and holding more classes, in person or online, at nights, summers and weekends.

- Work with businesses, the University of Minnesota, private colleges and other groups. By working with businesses, for instance, MnSCU can provide certificate, diploma and degree programs needed to keep Minnesotans employed, he added.

- MnSCU must deliver a good value, including keeping tuition as low as possible. For instance, he said, that the system may need to look at developing some statewide classes, such as a basic English class, instead of each school preparing its own.

Rosenstone said he drew up the three-fold framework after talking to college presidents and others as part of a 4,000-mile road trip since the board hired him seven months ago. He spent considerable time traveling the state even before he took over the job Aug. 1.

He promised "to ask the questions that will be hard to ask."

State and higher education financial problems mean Rosenstone cannot wait long to begin making changes: "There is a sense of urgency here."

"We must make some tough choices," "Rosenstone said. "We must think differently."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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