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Co. officials look ahead at key road projects for next 5 years

WILLMAR -- Some major road projects are on the schedule for Kandiyohi County in the next year.

The County Board heard a description of the upcoming projects Tuesday from County Public Works Director Gary Danielson.

Danielson provided a five-year plan for the county's roads. Among the major projects for 2011 is a $1.6 million resurfacing project on County Road 7 from state Highway 7 to Raymond. Another is a $1.05 million grading project on County Road 8 between the southern county line and Highway 7.

Both of those projects will use state road funds.

A $700,000 road and bike path project on County Road 26 from County Road 9 to near County Road 127 is another of the large projects using state funds.

Also in the plans is $460,000 in improvements to sewer, water, storm sewer and the road surfaces in the city of Atwater. "We're committed to that project," Danielson said. The county has been saving money for the project, and the city is waiting for final word on its loans and grants for the project.

The plans for 2011 also include resurfacing projects using county road funds. The overall 2011 plan includes nearly $4 million in funding from the state and nearly $2 million in county funds. Those amounts are slated to increase in each of the next five years.

Danielson said a Willmar project to rebuild the west end of Willmar Avenue is on hold, but he has included it in the county's five-year plan so that the county funds will be available.

If the board approved of the list, Danielson said, he would have his staff begin working on plans and contacting those affected by the projects,

Board Chairman Richard Falk said, "I think this is very reasonable." It's important for the county to stay up to date with transportation needs, he added.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen suggested that the county may want to move some projects up on the calendar, too, because bids have been very favorable recently, and interest rates are at historic lows.

Also Tuesday, the board approved a loan agreement for the Hawk Creek Watershed Project, which is working to reduce nutrient runoff in the watershed. The approval was contingent on Renville County also approving the agreement, which gives the project a three-year $315,000 loan.

The board gave Scott and Viona Hanson of rural New London one week to finish cleaning up their property. The Hansons had been cited in June for having five unlicensed vehicles on their property along with old furniture, appliances and other garbage strewn on their lawn. If they do not meet the county's deadline, the county could clean up the property and charge the Hansons for the work.

When the commissioners met as the Family Services Committee, they heard a report on the activities of West Central Industries.

Director Charlie Oakes said the nonprofit organization served 444 people in the past year, including 291 in Willmar and 153 in Hutchinson.

WCI has struggled during the recession and has reduced its budget by 20 percent, Oakes said, and the budget for the coming year should be in much better shape.

"I believe we're going to live through this," he said. "We have to, because 444 people count on us."

More than 60 percent of the WCI clients work at businesses in the community, a reversal from 10 years ago when a majority worked in WCI programs, Oakes said.

West Central Industries employees work at the county recycling center, where they collect more than 17 tons of materials to be recycled. WCI has also started working with Kandiworks to package its products.

Commissioners complimented Oakes on the partnership with Kandiworks and on the successful recycling program.

A contract with the state to handle MinnesotaCare applications locally was approved. The contract provides $18,000 at the rate of $30 per approved application for the county, the same amount as in fiscal year 2010. In 2010, the county handled 570 applications, financial supervisor Barb Kavanagh said.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340