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Kandiyohi County reviews 2011 road and bridge projects

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Commissioners will be letting bids on a list of road construction and resurfacing projects this spring but realize some of the items on the list may not get done if state aid is cut.

At a road and bridge meeting Monday, the County Board of Commissioners reviewed the priority projects, including the county share of street projects in Atwater and New London and projects on County Road 7 near Raymond, County Road 8 near Lake Lillian and County Road 26 by Eagle Lake.

The projects are estimated at $4 million but the estimated state aid is $3.1 million, and that could be cut pending legislation.

Public Works Director Gary Danielson said county funds would have to be used to fill the gap, or projects may have to be bumped to another year.

In the past, state cuts were viewed as one-time reductions and projects were delayed to the next year, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl, who encouraged the commissioners to accept the possibility that the funding might not return.

The 2011 proposed road work also includes resurfacing projects with an estimated cost of $1.7 million.

Commissioner Richard Larson said it's important for the county to continue maintaining roads to avoid early breakdown of roads and greater costs in the future.

The commissioners discussed delaying the project on County Road 26, in part because not all of the easements from landowners have been secured.

Several projects will be bid as alternatives and, pending the results of those bids and a final decision on state aid to counties, those projects will either be completed this year or delayed.

Danielson also gave an update Monday on snow removal costs.

In 2010, the county spent a total of $671,940, which is the most the county has ever spent.

2011 could be even worse. In January and February the county spent $420,000 in snow removal costs. That doesn't count the storms in March. Danielson estimates the total so far this year is nearly a half-million dollars.

The commissioners heard an update on water and sewer projects by the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District.

Director Ron Hagemeier said after a few years of going up and down, water usage by New London, Spicer and Green Lake residents has "flatlined" since that service began in 2001.

He said as rates were raised to cover the cost of doing business, "people became more conservative" and used less water, which hurt the utility's bottom line. Despite some growth in housing and business, including two high-use car washes, the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District is selling less water now than in 2001.

He said a new state mandate that requires special conservation rates could also hurt the utility. The mandate was based on the belief that people who use more water should pay a higher rate in order to conserve water, which he said would hurt commercial customers.

"We want to sell water," Hagemeier said. "We don't want to conserve water."

He said he expects to create a rate schedule that will be as "lenient as allowable" to meet the law yet not discourage water consumption.

"We're in the business of selling water," Hagemeier said.

He said a proposed bill that would allow people to drill wells wherever they want and not use municipal water systems could also hurt the sewer and water district.

Despite adding customers to the sanitary sewer system, including the city of Kandiyohi and three lakes near Spicer, Hagemeier said the plant is operating well below the plant's designed capacity and is actually treating less sewage than when the system began in 2001.

That's due, in part, to New London and Spicer investing money to replace leaky sewer lines, which has reduced the inflow and infiltration of clean water that is then treated. While that will save the towns money because they will be paying for less treated water, the district has raised rates to offset the decreased level of treated water.

Diamond Lake residents will be added to the sanitary sewer system this year.

Because of the expansion, Hagemeier said the "footprint" of the Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District is getting larger and may require additional staff in several years. A new biosolid storage facility is being built that provides a year's worth of storage.


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750