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Up to $200K is allotted to address the issues with park bridge

By Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR — Recognizing that the remaining 2013 construction season is short and that a decision on a crucial emergency project can’t be delayed until after their next meeting in November, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners gave the go-ahead Tuesday for county staff to take necessary action to repair a structurally deficient bridge even though the cost of the project is unknown.

The county board set a financial cap of $200,000 for the bridge, which is located at the entrance of County Park 2 on Big Kandiyohi Lake

Chairman Harlan Madsen said the board was not providing an “open-ended checkbook” for the project but said the board trusts the “ethics” of the administrator and Public Works Department and is confident they will be judicious with public funds and take appropriate action to fix the bridge.

 The narrow, 24-foot-long timber-frame bridge, which spans Judicial Ditch 1, provides the only crossing into the county park.

During a load rating inspection this fall, it was downgraded from a 9-ton bridge to a 3-ton bridge.

That low rating means heavy vehicles, like RVs that go to the popular campground each year, cannot safely cross the bridge. It will even be challenging for the park managers, who are the only year-round residents at the park, to safely cross the bridge with their pickup.

“It’s not like the bridge is going to fall down today,” said Kleindl. But because the Minnesota Department of Transportation has established the low load rating, vehicles exceeding 3 tons cannot safely cross, he said.

If the bridge is not repaired or replaced, the county could be forced to shut down the park, said Madsen.

Since that’s not an option the board is considering, the board agreed that quick action was necessary to fix the problem this winter so that the bridge and the park can be open next spring.

The Public Works Department has been working with an engineering company to get estimates for repairing the bridge by installing additional pilings alongside the existing wooden ones, which have been gradually deteriorating since they were installed in 1958. Jeremy Pfeifer, from the Public Works Department, said it’s possible the existing bridge deck can be salvaged.

But Pfeifer said those estimates were not ready in time for the board’s Tuesday meeting and the research has not been finished on other repair options. It’s unlikely, however, that the bridge will be replaced with a box culvert because of costs that could reach about $250,000.

Kleindl said it was risky to wait to begin construction until the board’s Nov. 5 meeting to hear price options because it would shorten the construction time left this year.

“I don’t want to lose one week in October in Minnesota,” said Kleindl, who sought the board’s permission to allow staff to proceed with the project as soon as all the information was obtained, possibly in the next week.

Madsen said it’s impossible to wait until spring to repair the bridge because the drainage ditch is usually full and water is oftentimes right under the bridge deck during the peak spring flow.

“We need to get it done,” said Commissioner Doug Reese.

Kleindl assured the board that the most prudent and affordable option would be selected.

He said whatever option is selected the project “won’t be a flash fix” but will include a quality design that will serve the park and the public well for many years.

Because it is an emergency project and thus no funds were budgeted, Kleindl said reserves would be taken from the building fund or highway fund to pay for the work.

In other action: - The board approved spending $282,575 on equipment for the new 911 emergency system. The Sheriff’s Office has been saving money in a special fund for several years to pay for the equipment.

- The 2014 Green Lake Sanitary Sewer and Water District budget was approved, which includes a 2 percent increase in the sewer rates and a $2-per-sewer unit increase. There are no increases in the water budget.

- The board approved a memorandum of understanding with St. Johns Township. The township is processing its own zoning and land use permits, but the county is requiring that all documents be filed with the county.

Carolyn Lange

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

(320) 894-9750