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Bids for '09 county road projects below estimates

WILLMAR -- Bids awarded Tuesday for summer road projects in Kandiyohi County came in well below estimates.

The savings will allow the county to do more road work than initially planned.

It will also give the county a financial cushion if the state shaves away the 2009 local government aid.

Given the low bids, the county could have done even more road projects if it wasn't facing the prospect of losing $600,000 in state aid this year, said Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Gary Danielson.

The public works department could be expected to contribute about $300,000 from this year's budget to offset potential state cuts, said Danielson.

Commissioners expressed frustration that legislators hadn't made budget decisions yet that will affect local government budgets.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said last year the Association of Minnesota Counties told lawmakers they were "willing to step up to the plate and be partners" to reduce the state deficit.

Kleindl said counties agreed to take their lumps and accept less LGA if the state would loosen up financial mandates that forces local governments to maintain a certain spending level for some programs even if the need for those programs has been reduced.

The counties also wanted to state to eliminate levy limits that were put in place last year.

Kleindl said he's concerned the state will not only keep the county's state aid but will also keep the mandates and levy limits in place.

"Talk about not working with us," said Kleindl.

He said it's frustrating "not seeing that partnership taking place."

At the beginning of this legislative session lawmakers were "tripping over themselves" to repeal mandates for local governments, said Commissioner Harlan Madsen. "Now it's not in their vocabulary."

Legislators should not be "let off the hook" when it comes to making compromises with counties, said Kleindl.

They need to know "we're mad as heck and we're not going to take it anymore," said Kleindl

"You can even be mad as hell if you want to," said Madsen.

If the legislature doesn't compromise taxpayers are the ones who take the brunt, he said.

"We need to take a stand and be very clear," said Madsen. Being accountable and making changes is "not a one-way street."

Kleindl said he's been working with department heads to devise a plan to redesign services that will save the county money.

Kandiyohi County could lose $600,000 in state aid this year. That figure could double next year under Gov. Tim Pawlenty's plan.

Getting the low construction bids will help the budget process.

Bituminous over-lay work on 11 different county and township roads had a total estimated cost of $2.7 million.

Duinincks Bros. Inc. of Prinsburg came in with the low bid of $2,534,678, which was nearly 6.5 percent under the estimate.

The savings there will allow the county to put a bituminous overlay on County Road 25 that will extend from County Road 5 to state Highway 23.

The commissioners agreed it made sense to take advantage of the low bids and move ahead with that project.

Another project to replace a bridge on County Road 39 was nearly 37 percent below the $627,343 estimate. Mathiowetz Construction Company of Sleepy Eye was lowest of 11 bidders for that project with a bid of $395,609.

That project was funded with a highway safety improvement grant. The low bid there will mean the state won't have to spend the entire grant allocation, said Danielson.

Even the cost of reflective paint was $7,095 below the $84,450 estimate.

When all the costs, savings and extra projects were finalized, Danielson said the public works department will have about $150,000 in savings that could be used to counter LGA cuts.

He's hoping that bids to rebuild County Road 41, known as the Radio Station Road, will also come in below the $3,088,000 estimate to give the department another $150,000 in savings for a budget cushion.

Bids will be awarded May 5.

That project is a cooperative effort between the county and city of Willmar. The city's financial share is $203,000 and the county's share is $2,885,000.

Carolyn Lange

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

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