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Co. begins process of turning back roads to townships

NEW LONDON -- An oversized map of Kandiyohi County in the Highway Department office shows a maze of short red lines scattered throughout the county's 24 townships.

The red lines show the location of approximately 100 miles of county roads that the County Board would like to give to the townships, which would then assu-me respon-sibility for future mai-ntenance co-sts. Public Works Dir-ector Gary Danielson said during the next 18 to 24 months, the process of "revocation and reversion" will be taking place as the county conducts public hearings with townships to discuss the hand-off of roads as part of the county's transportation jurisdictional study.

The first of those hearings was Tuesday when the County Board of Commissioners met with the Lake Andrew Township board and several residents who voiced their opinions about the so-called "turn-back" of roads.

Danielson remarked the roads that have been identified are "local access roads" that "really should not be in the county system."

Some of the roads, which were initially built as a county road, have turned into the equivalent of city streets that serve primarily local residents, Danielson said, and therefore should be maintained by the local entity and not the entire county.

If the county and townships can forge an agreement, the county will make sure the roads are in good shape before they are given to the township.

In some cases, that will mean rebuilding or resurfacing the road at the county's expense before it's turned over to the townships.

Because of that potential repair schedule, completing the revocation and reversion process could take three or four years.

Some roads are in good shape and the process can be accomplished quickly, Danielson said.

By reducing the number of county miles of road that need to be maintained, including winter snowplowing, the county can dedicate more of its funds on improving main connector roads in the county.

Putting road maintenance in the hands of townships also allows more flexibility to meet the desires of residents for when roads are plowed and for setting speed limits, Danielson said.

In the case of Lake Andrew Township, the turn-back includes a unique trade between the county and township.

Several years ago the county spent $564,854 to rebuild a two-mile township road that is heavily used as a short-cut to the landfill.

In exchange for taking over that road, now known as County Road 165, the county wants the township to assume formal ownership of a 1½-mile County Road 120 near Lake Florida.

Several lake residents spoke against the township taking over the road, in part because of concerns about how the road would be maintained.

County Commissioner Dean Shuck said he's received phone calls and letters from a dozen property owners who don't want the county to turn over ownership of the Lake Florida road to the township.

Danielson said, however, the township has been maintaining the road since the county and township completed an improvement project on it last year.

The County Board of Commissioners will take action on the road turn-back proposals at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

The commissioners also proposed that Lake Andrew Township consider a future proposal to take back County Road 38, which goes by Lake Andrew in an area known locally as Como Beach.

The lake road is used primarily for the residents who live there, Danielson said, with about 150 cars a day traveling on it. If the exchange is agreed to, the county would put a new layer of bituminous on the road before giving it to the township. It's been 45 years since the road has been re-surfaced.

Carolyn Lange

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

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